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Wreck-It Ralph

by Leonard Maltin
November 2, 2012 1:05 AM
1 Comment
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Wreck-It Ralph
©2012 Disney

I’m always rooting for a new Disney animated feature, and Wreck-It Ralph gave me a lot to cheer for: a fresh concept and clever execution to match it. Animation veteran (but studio newcomer) Rich Moore has directed this feature with a sharp eye, but winning over both hearts and minds is a tall order, and that’s where the film falls a bit short.

John C. Reilly is the perfectly-cast voice of the title character, the villain in an old-school video game who’s tired of being a “bad guy.” He never gets any approbation and has to live in a (literal) dump, while top-billed hero Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) wins all the praise. So Ralph does the unthinkable and breaks out of his arcade console, invading other game environments where he can prove himself a hero.

I’m not a gamer, but Moore and his team have managed to create a movie that works on several levels (no pun intended) so that kids, grownups, and video-game fanatics can all appreciate it. Wreck-It Ralph is brimming with gags and visually inventive ideas, as when Ralph (who lives in an aging, 8-bit universe) encounters slicker, better-animated characters from newer games. In fact, the first half of the film is a constant delight as clever, funny ideas are presented, one after another. It’s the second half where the storytelling becomes muddled.

I never bought into the relationship on which the movie hinges, between a weary Wreck-It Ralph and the obnoxiously “cute” game-girl Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman). Throw in a last-minute story thread involving the King Candy (Alan Tudyk, doing a hilarious impression of Ed Wynn) and you’ve got even more clutter as the film reaches its climax.

©2012 Disney

Wreck-It Ralph is a perfect example of a film that might have scored a bull’s-eye as a short subject but feels lumpy as a feature, as it tries to touch all the bases—including a heart-tugging storyline that is the touchstone of most Disney films. There’s much to enjoy and admire, but I never felt that swell of emotion that the Disney team tries to impart.

On the other hand Paperman, the six-and-a-half minute short subject that precedes the feature, is perfection itself, an amusing and ingenious love story told entirely in pantomime and styled in black & white (with just a touch of color). Here is a completely contemporary short that shows what talented people can do with one good idea. Kudos to director John Kahrs and his colleagues.

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1 Comment

  • mike schlesinger | November 27, 2012 5:28 PMReply

    I agree with your assessment overall, but I take slight objection to calling this a "fresh concept." It's really just TOY STORY (inanimate objects come to life when humans aren't around) meets MONSTERS, INC. (scary bad guy tamed by adorable little girl) meets CARS 2 (climactic race in candy-colored environment where villain somewhat arbitrarily appears at the 11th hour and almost screws everything up). I wasn't at all surprised to see "The Pixar Brain Trust" acknowledged in the end credits. But yes, yes, yes, PAPERMAN is an absolute jewel.

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