Wreck-It Ralph (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Nov/120

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

What a waste.  For a full two-thirds of the film I was bored to near-snores, trying to find something of interest onscreen in the unchanging landscape of endless pink clouds and bad puns while stock characters enacted a cliched dance to the tune of "being yourself." Then, almost as some kind of cruel twist of fate, Sarah Silverman bursts onscreen with an embarrassingly large supply of poop jokes.

This is a bad film with so much potential that it boggles my mind how the creative talent involved could stoop to the lowest common denominator so easily.  Arcade games have been around for almost forty years now and despite some of the bizarre turns characters have made throughout the years this movie settles on bland uniformity.  With so many different avenues for wonder the film could have explored the stock approach of Wreck-It Ralph almost comes as an insult and each blatant wink to the arcade lovers in the audience that much more pathetic.

Wreck-It Ralph takes place inside Litwak's Arcade, a haven of old-school cabinets mixing with rail shooters and music games that is a wonderful fantasy that barely exists anymore.  It's run by a kindly old man who wears quarters around his waist an does his best to keep old games running up until their last spark.  The problem for Ralph (John C. Reilly), is that he has been a villain trapped in Fix-It Felix for thirty years without a single shred of gratitude.  He wrecks the building while Felix (Jack McBrayer) gets to party with all the jerkily animated denizens of the town celebrate his Ralph's nightly defeat.

There's a lot of the first thirty minutes that reminds me of playing new games with my dad, exploring a new world and completely new style.

The first act is fun and at least seems promising.  Ralph goes to a support group for villains that look just bad enough to be misunderstood and are picked wisely from a cast of games that make this easy.  All of them have the same kind of large eyes and one or two elongated features, be it the claws on the King Koopa or Zangief's bulging muscles, and look threatening but friendly.  As the support group ends the animation switches over to the pixelated times of the golden-age of arcade games, and I smiled as Ralph brought a blocky cherry with him back into his world.

But that little burst of creativity ended fast as I saw the hub and other worlds of Litwak's Arcade through Ralph's eyes.  He decides that he's tired of being the villain and goes off in search of a medal so that he will look heroic for once, jumping from a gritty war game (Hero's Duty) to a cute racing game (Sugar Rush.)  There are a few stops in-between to take a peek at some of the classics, but you'd never know that the world was different if the color palette didn't change or the big feature of each character alter a bit.

The same large eyes and slick skin is grafted around the denizens of Litwak's Arcade, be it in real life or in the video game world.  This becomes a boring look toward each of the models, be it gargantuan Ralph, the tough Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch,) or the orange anteater on two legs Q-Bert.  Why they decided a giant turtle monster should bear the same details as a orange blob with a nose and a reasonably identifiable human I can't say, but it's a mistake.  Despite the occasional difference in animation (the lesser characters move jerkily while the stars are fluid) there is a blandness to their designs.  Their worlds are supposed to be wild and varied but they don't have an effect on their populations so they mull about their central train station hum looking strangely similar.

Almost everything wrong with the film, wrapped in one strange deus ex machina.

This disappointing creativity extends to the landscape, which only bothers to look very different in Ralph's world.  The endless pink of Sugar Rush and it's candy denizens is recolored in industrial gray for Hero's Duty and plain-old brown in the station.  By the time the film finally ends it feels like  I was watching the exact same terrain for an hour with slight color tones.  There's no attempt to even make the film shoot the landscape differently, almost always keeping at least one character in those suspiciously familiar lands.

Then there's the awful writing on display.  The screenwriters, Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, try to make the film appeal to three-year olds and the thirty-somethings that grew up with these games.  What follows is an awkward combination of poop jokes of duty equaling doodie and the Konami Code thrown in because why not?  Well, because it's a bad mish-mash of pandering and bad humor, unless you're the sort who likes playing with feces and shooting aliens at the same time.

Wreck-It Ralph is a misstep of the highest order.  When Robert Zemeckis made Who Framed Roger Rabbithis film throbbed with the potential of its combined histories of live-action and animation.  Here we get fecal jokes, stock characters, and bland landscapes.  I know there's something better than this.

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Directed by Rich Moore.
Screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston.
Starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and Jack McBrayer.

Posted by Andrew

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