Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Wreck-It Ralph

I’m not an animated movie guys.  I’ve properly stated this about a hundred times in this space, but every once in a while I will run out of things to watch or there will be an animated film that my girlfriend wants to see that will necessitate my giving one a look.  In the case or Wreck-It-Ralph, both scenarios came into play.  After one hundred and eight minutes of eye popping pastels and fluorescents, I came to the conclusion that Wreck-It-Ralph slots itself somewhere towards the upper end of the scale of the animated movies that I’ve seen - meaning I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but I also didn’t want to throw the remote at the television.  So what does this mean for you?

Well, let’s start with the premise.  The plot of the film tells the story of a video game villain named Wreck-It-Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), who has grown tired of playing the bad guy and aspires to become a hero.  When he sets out across the virtual world of his arcade to win a medal and achieve his dreams, he find that his journey wreaks havoc and threatens the fabric of all the games and the very arcade in which he resides.

A bit of a backstory to this movie involves Disney’s acquisition of Pixar.  Back when the deal went down, a lot of industry insiders wondered allowed if Pixar would be “Disnified” and if as a result, the onscreen product would suffer.  This was a legitimate concern given Disney Animation's recent history of spotty theatrical releases.  However, Pixar has for the most part been left to run as its own entity and judging by Tangled and Wreck-It-Ralph, has in fact effectually influenced Disney Animation.

The result then is a sleek movie with visuals that pop off the screen.  The animation is top notch and no stone is left unturned to foster any character that can provide a financial windfall for the Disney Consumer Products Group.  The story is creative-enough with just enough likability to grab both children and adults alike with such universal themes as friendship and loyalty and the plot provides a payoff worthy of the time invested. 

What stood out best about this movie is the voice work of John C. Reilly as Wreck-It-Ralph.  His voice, inflection, and timing lend itself perfectly to the character, who is a physically intimidating, but softhearted guy who always finds himself on the outside looking in.  Reilly’s ability to capture that with his voice work really keeps the film afloat.  Another aspect of the film that really worked was the appearance of some video game characters from classic games long past their prime.  Their respective appearances were a nice nod to the gaming community and provided some of the best comedic moments in the film. 

What didn’t work so well was the voice work of Jane Lynch (as Calhoun – a soldier) and Sarah Silverman (as Vanellope – a race car driver).  Lynch has a distinct very dry delivery that lends itself to blunt sarcasm and portraying mean streaks and in a lot of ways, her casting makes sense for what director Rich Moore was trying to achieve with this character.  But her work always feels out of place in the reality of this film and I could not help but always be aware that it was Jane Lynch speaking.  This proved damaging for the character.  As for Silverman, while her work never took me out of the reality of the film as she did a better job of disappearing into the character, I found her tone, inflection, and some of the choices she made very grating on the sense.  Her character is a key element to the film and for a film that banks on likability for its success; I found hers to be the least likable of the protagonists.

As for the rest of the cast, Jack McBrayer (Fix It Felix), Dennis Haysbert (General Hologram), Ed O’Neill (Mr. Litwak), and Alan Tudyk (King Candy) do a decent job of vocally bringing the members of this digital world to life – with Tudyk, of Dodgeball fame, standing out as the best of the rest.

In the end, I think that most people will enjoy this film. It has a moderately creative story with the right amount of sentimentality to keep you engaged with the characters’ plights.  If you have children this is a must see, but if you’re like me and not the biggest proponent of animated films, you may want to catch this on free television on a slow night.  While I haven’t changed my stance on animated films, I like the direction that they are going towards and should this trend continue, will look to put a few more on my movie queue.   

Standout Performance: John C. Reilly.  He does a great job of capturing the essence of Wreck-It-Ralph and ably carries the film.


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