Fri 2 Nov 2012
There will be no surprise when Disney’s latest 3D animated kids film, “Wreck-It Ralph”, ascends to the top of the box office as the world’s offspring clamor to be entertained and adults fork over the cash to pacify their little angels for 90 minutes. As with most cartoons, one only needs to use sound, color, and slick marketing to get people into the theater. Check, check, and check.
Speaking of the marketing, I will admit that the trailer had me hopeful this would be one of the most fun movies of 2012; a nice inoculation of entertainment prior to studios bombarding critics with a mountain of heavy dramas in preparation for awards season. As a lifelong gamer who’s owned or played pretty much every home system and spent countless hours in arcades, the thought of a movie all about those characters was nothing short of exciting. There’s just one tiny, little, problem.
All those great characters you see in the trailer: don’t expect all that much more of them in the feature length movie.
Now, for the little tykes and non-gamers out there, this isn’t going to be a deal-breaker and you can safely stop reading this review and buy a ticket if you were previously inclined to do so (as per usual, the 3D is flat and uninspiring so feel free to save a few bucks and see this in 2D). It is rated PG so I suggest keeping it at 7-year olds and up, as there are a few confrontations that may be a bit much for smaller kids. For all of you out there who were hoping to see characters from Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Pac-Man and scores of other games join in on the action, just boot up your gaming console at home and save the $47 dollars you would have spent at the theater.
I’d call this a spoiler alert but I consider it such horse-puckey (watching my language for a kids movie review) that you bother to license all these great characters and tease their inclusion only to have 90% of their involvement in the actual film take place in the opening set-up of how the game world operates once the arcade closes its doors (think “Toy Story” but without the depth of meaning). It’s completely understandable you want to introduce original characters so you can build them from the ground-up, however it’s such a no-brainer to at least bring everyone together in the end to defeat whatever conflict is going to be your idea of a resolution.
Here, we see Wreck-It Ralph long to be seen as more than a villain. He hops into another game, which leads him to one more game, where we are then stopped and forced to sit through the rest of the movie. Going back to the trailer again, there was this promise of Ralph jumping multiple games, that this was literally a 2-game jump makes the pluralization of the premise correct but doesn’t do the pacing of the movie any favors.
And none of the blame can go to the voice-actors; they all do a wonderful job. John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer all have these iconic voices. The standouts here are Alan Tudyk and Sarah Silverman. Tudyk truly adopts a sound that is anything but like his normal voice and Silverman creates a character that is equal parts smart-alec and vulnerable.
No, the blame goes to the director, screenwriters, and marketing department. They make a 93-minute film feel so much longer by sticking us in one game for the back-half of the movie, the character development and resolution structure is anything but original, and that trailer gives gamers like myself hope for a far more geek-centric experience. The end result is merely a decent kids films that happens to include some nostalgic characters. “Wreck-It Ralph” will entertain the masses but leaves out what should be a key demographic and should never have bothered to license any actual video game characters in the first place. It’s like buying a Ferarri to use for grocery runs. Where’s the sense in that?
If this were an arcade game, it would never get any more quarters out of me. The replay factor is simply non-existent for gamers looking for more than a half-hearted interpretation of Pixar’s break-out movie. Between the last few Pixar movies and now this, I’m not sure what the point of appointing John Lasseter as head of Disney animation was (after formerly heading up just Pixar itself). It appears that the films under his umbrella have merely regressed since “Up” and the white flag has gone up. They may have realized that placating children and dragging their parents into theaters is as easy as lighting a flame and watching the moths come to die (this notion is a plot element in “Wreck-It Ralph”), but it doesn’t mean all these creative people should just give up and take the money. But hey, it’s always great to see adults teaching children an important lesson: integrity is nowhere near as cool as a new beach house.