Dinosaur. Treasure Planet. Brother Bear. Home On The Range. Mostly forgettable films from the House of Mouse. I’m a huge Disney fan (not to mention a parent of three), and I didn’t even bother watching that last one. So when Wreck-It Ralph came to theaters last fall–right after Brave, if I recall–I didn’t even bother to go see it. I didn’t know anything about the character(s), had no idea what the story was about, and I don’t think I even saw the trailer, even though it would have been perfect to show ahead of Brave. I figured it must be another of “those” Disney movies that wouldn’t be any good, so I skipped it.
Boy, did I miss out!
It took my eleven-year-old asking me about this movie just a few days ago to rekindle my interest. His class had just finished a round of ISAT testing, and they were celebrating with a movie. But the band kids had to leave for practice before the movie was finished, so my son didn’t get to see the end. (I HATE when that happens!) He kept going on and on about how great the movie was, and I really hate not getting to the end of a story (Are you listening, FOX? Two words: X-Files movie.), so we went ahead and rented the movie, popped some popcorn, and settled in for a bona-fide Friday Night Movie Night.
From the first scene to the appearance of the main title (I have to admit, I still love when movies do that), we were all hooked. This movie was easily identified among all of us as a Toy-Story-Meets-Tron kind of thing, which immediately caught everybody’s attention. Even my fifteen-year-old, whom we actually pulled away from his own little world of online gaming, got a kick out of Skrillex’s cameo as a DJ at an inter-gaming party. And when was the last time you saw a movie with Q-bert in it?
This is the beauty of this movie: it really does have something for everybody. Boys will obviously like with Wreck-It Ralph and Fix-It Felix; girls will love how much of the movie takes place in Sugar Rush, a pink-candy-girly dream game; teens will definitely identify with the Hero’s Duty game, and gamer girls will especially like Sergeant Calhoun; and parents will love all the references to the old video games they grew up with.
All of these elements are probably enough to make a decent movie, unless you’re John Lasseter. Anyone familiar with any movie he’s had a hand in (basically, the entire Pixar catalog) knows that to Lasseter, story is everything. And Wreck-It Ralph has a fantastic story, with a wide assortment of characters that are all equally well-developed, complete with their own backstories and goals and motivations, all of which are woven together to create a rich, complex story that would rival many live-action dramas. (Even the game Fix-It Felix has its own backstory–just listen to the lyrics of the end title music!) The characters actually interact with one another in a way that goes far beyond the standard “bad guy wants to make good” concept that in other iterations could have been “good enough” on its own. Not only are we as the audience shown all of these different perspectives, the characters themselves discover those perspectives all around them and among each other. And the action of the story takes enough twists and turns that it’s easy to immerse yourself in the story and not try to figure out how it all will end. At least, it’s easy for me. 🙂
There’s no detail left untouched here, from the way the characters in the Fix-It Felix game move to the appropriately stylized game environments. There are some wonderful casting choices, not only with John C. Reilly as Ralph and Edie McClurg as yet-another-extra (that woman has the most recognizable voice I’ve ever heard!), but also a surprising turn by Alan Tudyk who I’m sure was channeling the original Disney Mad Hatter, and a wonderful tough-gal character who could only be voiced by Jane Lynch. And I could spend another entire post about the various Big Concepts that get touched on here, most importantly the various explorations of Why It’s Okay To Be Me.
But most importantly, this movie kept everyone’s attention through to the end–from the still-not-quite-over-the-flu seven-year-old, to the aforementioned-eleven-year-old who finally got to see the end, to the teen-who-is-usually-gaming. My husband and I finished this movie surprised at how thrilled we were at having seen it, and I’m so glad we didn’t miss out. It was truly a great experience for our entire family, which is increasingly rare, and it’s definitely one we’ll be adding to our Blu-Ray collection.