Ever wish you could watch a movie about some of your favorite vintage video game characters? Well, your wish has been granted (at least, sort of) with Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s original and surprisingly creative 2012 film. This is another one of those “I never got around to seeing it” Disney films, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had remembered hearing that this had received pretty favorable reviews, but then reviews aren’t everything, and just because the world likes something is no guarantee that I will. In this instance though, it turns out the world was correct.
Wreck-It Ralph stars, you guessed it, Wreck-It Ralph, a villain in a classic arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. Ralph has been the villain in his game for 30 years, and he dreams of more. In a truly creative twist, we get to see Ralph and company travel between games, using their power cords and surge protectors to journey from cabinet to cabinet. The novelty of this is that while Wreck-It Ralph and his fellow characters from Fix-It Felix Jr. might be made-up, we get to see cameos from plenty of real characters sprinkled throughout the film. From Qbert and Bowser to Chun-Li and Sonic, there are nearly too many classic characters to count in this film. Sure, they’re not the stars, but my inner gamer was extremely excited to see appearances by so many classic characters.
Aside from these cameos, there’s also a great story in this film. Ralph is on a journey to win a hero’s medal, and along the way he meets Vanelope, a girl from a sickly-sweet-but-I-still-want-to-play-it game called Sugar Rush (think Mario Kart, but with candy everything). Vanelope is a glitch in the game, meaning she’s not allowed to participate in the actual game play in case her glitching causes the shop owner to think the game is broken and unplug it forever. The explanation given is descriptive enough to give the film a unique twist, rather than feeling like a typical rehashing of a story we’ve heard a million times before. A bulk of the story takes place in the Sugar Rush game, meaning we’re met with an onslaught of candy-related puns and humor, yet surprisingly they’re creative and never cross the line of too much. Ralph is torn between searching for his medal and helping the young racer, and the relationship that develops between them is sweet and sassy enough to feel true to the characters.
Without giving too much away, I must say this film is a must-watch. Mid-way through the movie I found myself idly wishing that there were more appearances by real characters, but upon further reflection I respect why Disney wrote the film the way they did. If real characters played a larger part in the film, it would have morphed into a Mario movie, or a Sonic movie, etc. Here, we get the nostalgia and enjoyment of seeing characters from real games on-screen, while still allowing Disney to create a film that is entirely their own. Rather than feeling derivative, Wreck-It Ralph is a wholly original story, peppered with enough gaming references to instantly send me back to my childhood and reminisce about all of the incredible Nintendo games I played back then (…or played last Saturday, if I’m being honest).
There’s honestly very little for me to criticize with this film, which given some of my recent reviews is surprising. I just honestly really enjoyed this film from start to finish. In the past I’ve criticized Disney films for straying too far from their roots, trying to be modern instead of focusing on interpretations of classic stories. Here Disney found the perfect balance, giving a modern twist to “classic” stories in the form of vintage games. It’s an engaging and enjoyable story, and one that hopefully will influence Disney’s storytelling method moving forward.