Just because your programming makes you a bad guy doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy. Except maybe if “programming” is a metaphor and your day job is robbing banks. In that case, stop it. In Wreck-It Ralph, however, programming means programming, and a typical day job is destroying buildings or blasting aliens in the most colourful segregated community since Pleasantville. There are no shades of grey in Ralph’s world of wrecking stuff and Fix It Felix’s life of putting it back together. If Ralph ever questions his raison d’être and feels the urge to fix something, he can always talk it out at a Bad-Anon meeting with fellow villainous attendees like Zombie, Bowser, and Saitine.
Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) has been wrecking stuff for 30 years. It’s more than just a job; it’s the only life he knows. At the end of the day, Ralph goes home to a pile of rubble and gazes up at Felix’s (voiced by Jack McBrayer) penthouse, crowded with worshipping townspeople and celebratory cake. Life is rough for Ralph. One day, after Felix wins another medal for a job well done, Ralph finally snaps and decides to find a medal of his own… outside his game. His first field trip is across the arcade to “Hero’s Duty”, where Ralph comes face-to-helmet with Commander Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch) and her war against a mutant swarm of giant insects. Ralph’s journey then catapults him in a completely different direction towards “Sugar Rush”. There he meets Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a wannabe candy-kart racer who suffers from a serious case of the glitch. Together Ralph and Vanellope try to show their respective games that they’re bad, and that’s good; that they will never be good and that’s not bad; and that winning a medal means EVERYTHING.
The greatest part of Wreck-It Ralph is in the little, pass-me-by moments. For example: spotting Chun-Li hanging with Princess Peach, or a spectator gallery at the candy racetrack specifically reserved for “nuts”. Wreck-It Ralph is worth a watch, at least once, just to catch these fun little morsels.
The second best thing is the animation. Every arcade game has its own style of graphics. Since “Fix-It-Felix” is a retro game, the scenery is pixilated and the characters bounce in box-like movements. “Hero’s Duty”, however, is a modern game with high resolution graphics and much more depth of field. The animators are thankfully merciful, however, and decided to smooth over Ralph and Felix’s pixelated appearances when not seen through their arcade screen. We are only subjected to boxy jerks when they’re moving within their game… Or when the Nicelanders enter the room… Because they’re rude and unfriendly. Off topic… The “Sugar Rush” scenery, in contrast, has a shocking amount of detail. Not a single object, alive or otherwise, is made with anything less than 90% sugar. Everything including the vegetation, the cars, the citizens, and even the names (Taffyta Muttonfudge) is made out of lollipops, wine gums, and cavities.
With this kind of setting and that kind of hilarious subtlety you’d think Wreck-It Ralph would be a total hit. It’s fun to watch as the universe unfolds, but the story quickly loses momentum. Ralph is so determined to bring home a medal he’s blind to everything else around him. He’s about as one-dimensional as his retro game. Beside him, Vanellope has to be the most annoying character since Colin Creevey walked into Hogwarts. It’s like trying to sympathize with a needy gerbil on a wicked sugar high.
After Ralph falls into the Candy Kingdom everything goes downhill. The plot loses its unique edge and becomes painfully linear. It seriously disappoints me because the concept behind Wreck-It Ralph has so much potential. We’re practically prepped for a Toy Story 2.0. There’s even a little girl who visits the arcade and questions why her favourite characters are behaving strangely.
If Wreck-It Ralph explored more games or shook the settings and characters up a little, it would be a stellar movie. As it stands, the creativity finds a comfort zone and sets up camp. The Bad-Anon attendees alone offer so much potential for future cameos. Instead, we get nonstop Vanellope, King Candy (voiced by Alan Tudyk), and sugar highs. Wreck-It Ralph is an amusing movie because of the fun little tidbits and excellent design, but as for a story it is way below par. Balancing these points out I’d say Wreck-It Ralph is a 5/10.