Wreck It Ralph

Time does not permit me to heap upon this movie all the praise it deserves, but I took the family to see the film last night, yes, at a theater, and yes, it was sixty hard earned bucks for the six of us, and my wallet screamed in agony.

It was worth the ticket price, and for a man of my humble means and pinchpenny Scroogesque habits, this is high praise indeed.

The plot premise is this: late at night, after the humans go home, the characters in arcade games relax, and can visit each other by passing through the whimsical train-station and rail lines in the surge suppressor and electrical cables. One minion of a thirty-year old game, Wreck-It Ralph, is weary of his life as a villain, envious of the shiny medal and yummy pie showered on the game’s hero, Fix-It Felix Jr, and so seeks a medal of his own in some other game, a first person shooter called Hero’s Duty or a candyland-themed go-cart racing game called Sugar Rush.

Danger looms because no character can be resurrected with any extra lives outside his own game, and if the humans see any games lacking characters, or in the wrong game, or behaving oddly,  they will assume the game is broken, and unplug it, destroying that world, and reducing its characters, if they escape it in time, to homeless beggary.

Naturally, complications ensure when Ralph, whose only talent is to wreck things, finds himself in games too violent or too sweet for him, and his medal of heroism eludes him, or is stolen. He falls in with a waif from Sugar Rush, Vanellope, a glitch who dreams of being a racer; but he is pursued by his goodhearted antagonist Fix-It Felix, and by the Amazonian space-marine sergeant  Calhoun, “who was programmed with the most tragic backstory ever.”

Forgive me if this sounds boastful, but as a writer, I am familiar with the tricks of the trade, of how to tell a story, and usually I can see what is being done as a plot hook or as set up for a later pay off, and I am rarely surprised. I say that only because, without giving anything away, this plot surprised me, and pleasantly, more than once: and yet, when it was finished, nothing seemed surprising, because it was all so well set up from the start that it seemed in hindsight inevitable.

Even saying this much might ruin it for some folk, because if you are looking for plot reversals, they may not surprise you as they did me, or, worse, the reversals are done so well that to you it will not seem a reverse at all, and you will wonder what this review was even talking about.

And it had a truly happy ending, which could have been sappy, but instead was sweet.

The voice acting was good, the visuals were adroit and droll, and with the exception of one exchange of potty humor, the humor was light, quick, refreshing, and had a solid heart to it. There was even a scene where my green-blood pumping Vulcan heart would have been moved to tears, were I capable of such a human weakness. (Just kidding. I bawled so much at the tearjerker scene that the marshmallow in my hot chocolate called me a softy.)

The was like TOY STORY in that the writer took a pretty simple idea, expanded on it, peopled it with likable characters, who yearn for something we all seek, and who are placed in a tense situation beyond their capacity to cope, and yet they find the inner strength to prevail against external and internal obstacles.

Normally, for a Disney film, I would talk about the spectacle, the animation quality, the color palate, and the other technical execution skills for which Disney is justly famous. But Disney is also famous for the good old-fashioned craftsmanship of solid story telling, tales as old as the hills and fresh as the dawn.

So if you want to see something refreshing, as suitable for children as for adults who have not outgrown a taste for childlike things, go see this film.