Review: Wreck-It Ralph or ‘Who Framed Roger 8-bit?’

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Wreck-It Ralph - © 2012 DisneyWreck-It Ralph is one of the most inventive and entertaining animated films to come along in some time. It has playful fun with all sorts of pop culture references, but focuses mostly on retro video games and the idea that their respective characters lead regular lives after the arcade closes its doors for the night.

This homage to the bygone era of video games borrows heavily from other animated film classics like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Toy Story, but it still manages to be fresh in original and creative ways. The universe of Wreck-It Ralph has its own set of very amusing and logical rules and physics that make for an original narrative framework and a unique type of tension. And it’s pretty darn funny as well.

Wreck-It Ralph is a vintage video game inside old man Litwak’s (voiced by Ed O’Neill) strip-mall arcade, which hosts a plethora of classic 8-bit games as well as more modern fare. At night, after all the kids have gone home, the video game characters call it quits for the day and enjoy spending the night living beyond the controls of their respective machine’s joystick.

Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the antagonist in his Donkey Kong like game where he pounds his fists tearing down a building while Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer), a little man with a golden hammer, follows behind the big oaf repairing all the damages. The problem is that Ralph is really a good guy and he’s lonely and tired of always being the “heavy.”

Wreck-It Ralph - © 2012 DisneyThe arcade consoles are all interconnected by their power cords that allow the game characters to travel and interact with each other when they are off-duty, with the power-strip acting as a train station of sorts while the surge-protector checks everyone’s credentials.

Ralph thinks that if he can win a game medal that he’ll finally be appreciated by the other citizens in his game. So he sets off on a journey to the first-person shooter, Hero’s Duty (kind of a cross between the Halo & Call of Duty video games), to try and snag a prize.

He gets the medal, but through a series of misadventures he ends up in the Sugar Rush racing game where anime-looking little girls race cars created out of every kind of candy you can imagine. There he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a game “glitch” and unlikely partner who teams-up with the ape-like bruiser to save the day.

Wreck-It Ralph - © 2012 DisneySilverman as the spunky Vanellope steals the show, and for someone who despises big-eyed anime characters and cutesy racing games, the little animated brat won me over and I really felt for her desperate plight as a gaming glitch. (Weird.) The other voice talent is rounded out by Jane Lynch as Sergeant Calhoun, Alan Tudyk as King Candy and Horatio Sanz & Adam Carolla as doughnut cops Duncan & Wynchel.

There is a slew of video game character cameos in this film and I honestly could only name a handful like Bowser, Sonic, Q*bert and Pac-Man. If you are well-versed in your video game history then I’m sure you are going to have a blast identifying all your favorite heroes and villains.

Wreck-It Ralph is a great family film that adults will love as much as kids and that girls will love as much as boys. The only demographic that might feel left out of the gaming humor in this film might be the very elderly (or if you’ve never put a quarter into an arcade game), but they’ll still have a good time with the very human story told in this video game themed cartoon. Grade: 8/10


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Bob Leeper
Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.