Once in awhile there is a movie that comes close to reinventing the wheel. Back when Toy Story was released in 1995, it was a revelation. Not only could you make a film for everyone to enjoy, it was the first full-length computer animated film and shed some light on what toys do when you leave the room. While we all know that the Toy Story series are just movies and that toys don’t really have a life of their own (or do they?), the only other film that’s really done this kind of thing successfully to an entire genre has been Cabin in the Woods. And now, in the same year no less, we get another film to capture this kind of bewilderment with Wreck-It Ralph.
Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a bad guy. Not necessarily a bad guy, he just happens to be the villain in the arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr. For 30 years he’s destroyed the building of Niceland while the citizens living within celebrate Fix-It Felix, Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer) for fixing everything that Ralph destroys. Via Game Central Station, Ralph attends Bad-anon meetings hosted by Clyde from Pac-Man, featuring other such famous bad guys as M Bison (voiced by Gerald C. Rivers), Bowser, a zombie (voiced by Raymond Persi), and Satan.
After he destroys the cake at his game’s 30th anniversary party, Ralph hangs out at Tapper’s trying to find out how he can earn a medal and show everyone in Niceland that he’s more than just the bad guy. At Tapper’s he runs into a soldier from a newly plugged in first person shooter game, Hero’s Duty, who informs Ralph that all they do is destroy Cy-bugs and win medals ad nauseam. Ralph sees his chance for glory and game jumps to win his sought-after medal where he meets Sergeant Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch). Felix goes looking for Ralph and Q*bert leads him to Duty where he informs Calhoun of Ralph’s antics, but not before he winds up with a face-hugging Cy-bug stowing away with him in an escape pod crash landing in the game Sugar Rush.
This is where the real plot kicks in as Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman) who just wants to be part of the race (Sugar Rush is very Mario Kart), much to the chagrin of King Candy (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Since she’s a glitch, King Candy won’t let her finish because he informs Ralph that if her avatar becomes one of the featured racers, the kids will see her glitch and they’ll be deemed out of order and unplugged. Seeing how Vanellope is a glitch she won’t be able to leave the game to save herself and will die with Sugar Rush.
The wit behind the movie comes as absolutely no surprise with the crew assembled. Director Rich Moore (who also voices the character of Sour Bill), after cutting his teeth working on such hilarious animated TV fare as The Simpsons, The Critic, Futurama, Drawn Together, and Sit Down Shut Up keeps up a manic spirit and a breakneck pace, only slowing down to make sure everything has enough heart to match the sticky sweets. Meanwhile, the screenplay from Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids) keeps the jokes flying and inject a boundless wit even managing to make such a random joke as diet soda and Mentos as hilarious as possible.
With a voicecast chock full of hilarious performers (Adam Carolla, Rachael Harris, Mindy Kaling, Ed O’Neill, and Edie McClurg), Silverman presents us with some of the best vocal work in years. But the most surprising aspect is that the proceedings actually have some consequence. Ralph’s game jumping puts the whole arcade in jeopardy, and the fact that he introduced a Cy-bug into Sugar Rush doesn’t help either. So for anyone who’s ever wondered what happens inside their favorite video game when he or she walks away, look no further. You’ll be as dazzled by the spectacle and overpowered with nostalgia while laughing hysterically from one joke to the next as Wreck-It Ralph winds up beating out the rest of the year’s contenders for Best Animated Feature.
Note: The attached animated short, Paperman, from director John Kahrs and story credits to Clio Chiang and Kendelle Hoyer, just may be the best romantic comedy in years.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures