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(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.)
I will never be good, and that’s not bad.
There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”
– Bad Guys Anonymous affirmation
So, funny story about my boyfriend and Wreck It Ralph –
I love my boyfriend. I do. You’ll never find a nicer, funnier, knower-of-all-things-relating-to-films-and-pop-culture-in-general-er kind of guy. He got me to ride Splash Mountain for the first time. He opened my eyes to the magic and wonder that is the horror genre of film, as well as some others that apparently exist beyond Disney, fantasy, and musical (boy have I been missing out!). He’s been there for me at times when nobody else in the world has, and inspired me to pursue paths and dreams I once never even considered. I in turn have shared my love of animation and theater and other things with him, and we have both grown and changed because of each other in all the right ways.
Going back to that last overly long bit of description though, he is a massive nerd when it comes to some cultural touchstones, and I mean this in the nicest way possible. Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, video games, cartoons and most movies in general, he loves them all, and during our 5+ years together, he’s managed to indoctrinate me into quite a lot of these factions (When he found out I had the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy on VHS, we spent our first summer together watching them and I rediscovered just how great those films are. Needless to say we’re both hyped for “The Force Awakens”). One of our favorite pastimes when we’re not anticipating the next Marvel movie or planning our next trip to Comic Con is playing videogames, both new and nostalgic.
So when Disney announced that it was making a movie about video games…
You can bet he was first in line to see it. I, on the other hand, could go either way. Sure, Princess and the Frog and Tangled both proved Disney could do fairy tales right again, but could Disney handle something so steeped in pop culture and do it well without turning it into something like High School Musical or Pixels? I went in with some trepidation but in the end I came out smiling. It’s definitely in my Top 20 favorite Disney films, and one of my favorites of this recent Disney Animation revival period. My boyfriend on the other hand…
…well, we both enjoyed the Paperman short that came before it. That’s what counts, right?
To clarify, he doesn’t hate the movie, he just happens to fall into one of two camps that I’ve noticed exist concerning one character that either makes or breaks the film for some people. He enjoys much of the first act, but when that one character comes in, he’s out the door. I’ll go into more detail when we get to this person, but now, the review.
We open with an 8-bit version of the Steamboat Willie logo for Disney Animation, which is very promising. The animators have really done their homework on this one. They nail the 8-bit style animation seen throughout the film in cutscenes and how the players view the game, and even in how some of the older characters move normally within their games compared to the more recent ones. Originally this film was going to be traditionally animated (and if you look hard online you’ll see some really good pencil tests of the characters done by Eric Goldberg and Nik Ranieri) but for a film like this the animation should be done in CGI. All video games are computer games by default, and having it switch from CG to traditional animation would feel jarring. Sad to say it’d be hard to have a video game world that’s hand-drawn and make it believable.
Our protagonist, the titular Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), narrates his life story – he’s the villain in a popular Donkey Kong/Super Mario-esque arcade game, Fix-It Felix Jr., and his job is to make trouble for the game’s good guy, Felix, while he tries to repair the damage Ralph does to the Niceland apartment building he’s protecting. To be fair, Ralph has every reason to wreck up the place. In the game’s opening animation, we see him being kicked off his land without so much as a by-your-leave and the apartments are built right in front of him.
Everyday it’s the same routine – Ralph wrecks the building, Felix fixes it, and Ralph is thrown from the rooftop by the angry tenants before they reward Felix with a medal, pies, and their eternal adoration. Felix enjoys the penthouse suite, Ralph goes to sleep in a dump with nothing but mountains of bricks from the damage he’s caused. It’s enough to make any person depressed, but try doing it for thirty years, which is exactly how long the game has been plugged in the arcade. Ralph finishes his story, and it’s revealed that he’s been telling it to a group of other video game bad guys, some well-known, some obscure.
This is Bad Guys Anonymous, or Bad-Anon for short, where the villains of the arcade come together to share their stories and support each other. Since this is Fix-It Felix’s 30th anniversary, Ralph was finally driven to come to the group and confesses that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore, which causes quite a stir (I love how it even makes Clyde go into that blue mode when Pac-Man eats the super-charged pellet). On being asked by M.Bison if he’s going turbo, Ralph denies it. When I first saw this, I thought it was just a shout-out to something M.Bison does because, major confession time, I’ve never played Street Fighter before. But pay attention, this “going turbo” thing will come up again later, right Bison?
Zangief from Street Fighter and a zombie offer some good advice – just because you’re the bad guy doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You can’t change who you are, and it’s easier to take it one game at a time than try to change anything. They then close with the aforementioned Bad-Anon motto and we find that this meeting took place in the ghosts’ box in Pac-Man (I’ve always wondered what that place was like…)
The villains exit the game via a train that moves like a subway through various outlets and we’re taken to the main hub of the arcade’s virtual world, Game Central Station. I’m pretty sure this along with the previous scene was the reason this film was made.
There’s cameos by the ton in this one minute alone, as well as some fun in-jokes (freeze frame it at certain points and you’ll find graffiti saying things like “Aerith Lives” and “All Your Base Are Belong to Us”). We also get one of video gaming history’s most beloved heroes, Sonic, doing a brief PSA warning characters not to die while visiting other games because their extra lives will only work in their own games. This serves a dual purpose – one, a brief second of exposition that will definitely come into play later along with that “turbo” thing, and two, a great send-up of those cheesy “Sonic Sez” lessons that Sonic’s first animated series had in the 90’s.
On exiting the train, Ralph gets stopped by game security for a “random” check (who’d have thunk that racial profiling is just as bad in the virtual world?) and he manages to get through it with his cherries in tact…let me rephrase that. He manages to sneak some bonus fruit from Pac-Man out with him while expressing his frustration with the system. He then makes his way back to his game while various good-guy characters he comes across flee in terror at the sight of him.
Now fellow readers, it’s time for Ralph to show the audience that he’s our main protagonist (if the past few minutes and the title of the film haven’t done so already). We’ve brought some of Disney’s most beloved heroes into the studio to give Ralph some pointers. Let’s watch –
Ralph sees some characters from Q*Bert who became homeless after their game was unplugged and shares his food with them (see, works every time). He then takes the train back to his game where he sees the Nicelanders throwing a party for Felix in the penthouse, and, what a shock, they didn’t invite him (and yet they invited Pac-Man, who they know is just gonna barge in hopped up on pellets, eat all the food and vomit in the punch like he always does). He goes up to investigate and the terrified Nicelanders force Felix to go talk to him in the hopes of sending him away.
Now here’s something I like a lot about Felix. They could have easily made him a huge jerk, soaking up all that love from the Nicelanders and treating Ralph just as crappily as they do because he’s the hero and Ralph isn’t. Instead, Felix is a genuinely nice guy, polite to a fault and wanting to make everyone happy. It’d be impossible to separate him from the actor who delivers his voice, Jack McBrayer, who tends to play these upbeat, almost comically over-the-top nice characters. Also, gonna get personal here, I think Felix is just ADORABLE. I could hug him into oblivion he looks so cute and sweet and tiny that I have to bite my knuckles to keep myself from squeeing whenever he’s onscreen.
After a brief awkward conversation, Felix ends up inviting Ralph to join the party…and he promptly (but accidentally) kills Felix by having the ceiling partly collapse on him. It’s okay, he comes back to life since this is his game. Still, not a great entrance, and the Nicelanders make sure Ralph knows it. To diffuse the tension, Felix has the cake brought out, which I’m absolutely positively sure will not get destroyed or, dare I say, wrecked before this scene is over. The cake is a replica of the apartment building, which shows Felix being awarded another medal and everyone celebrating on top – except for Ralph, who’s down in a chocolate mud puddle (now that’s just cruel).
Things take a turn for the worse as Ralph argues with Gene (voiced by story artist Raymond S. Persi) over why he can’t be on top of the cake with everyone else. Ralph asks if it would be so bad if he could get a medal for once and Gene flat out says that all Ralph is good for is wrecking the building. And as the arguing intensifies, well…
Also, look carefully at the picture and you’ll notice all the cake splatters look pixellated. It’s a little touch that I love.
Ralph storms off, announcing that he’s gonna get his own medal (with blackjack and hookers), and Gene tells him that if he does, he can have the keys to the penthouse. While the others worry if Ralph really meant what he said, Ralph drowns his sorrow at Tapper’s and –
Wait a minute, is that…
Ralph tells the barman, Tapper, his troubles, and he allows him to rummage through lost and found, leading to more fun video game references (a Super Mario mushroom, a Metal Gear “!”, and a pair of underwear from one of Zangief’s earlier designs…I’m not gonna question how it got there).
His attention switches to an NPC from the recently plugged-in first person shooter game Hero’s Duty that’s walking into a wall blathering about the game’s mission (so remember kids, everytime you see a faulty AI in a video game, it’s not the programmer’s fault, the character’s just utterly wasted). When Ralph goes to talk to the guy, he snaps and freaks out over how it’s always the same mission – fight Cy-bugs, climb a building, watch your comrades get slaughtered so the player can live out their killing fantasies for five minutes. This actually raises some serious questions about this world that a simple Bad-Anon group can’t fix. It’s one thing to be a character that has to cause so mayhem and destruction, but being forced into combat over and over? Having to deal with nasty stuff in the background while the player goes on with the game? Talk about PTSD! How do the guys in Call of Duty handle it?
Ralph isn’t interested in the guy’s desperate psychological needs, however, but on hearing about how the hero wins a medal by climbing a building, he asks about possibly joining him. The soldier goes back into army mode and denies his request, but panics on seeing a real bug and conks himself out. So Ralph steals his armor and heads off to Hero’s Duty to snag himself a medal, bumping into Q*Bert along the way.
The soldiers prepare themselves for the game and we meet their leader, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Great Iwata’s ghost, can the casting get any better than Jane Lynch? She takes the rough-n-tough, rookie-chewin’ commander role to the extreme, and you can tell how much fun she’s having. It’s like if Samus collided with the Soldier from Team Fortress 2. I also like how not only is the squadron leader a female, but the player is a young girl, showing how much video games have changed from making women the prizes to having them be full-fledged heroes and catering to more than one demographic (COUGHPIXELSCOUGH).
The game goes about as well for Ralph as you can imagine. Having ignored the soldier’s warning about Cy-bugs, he’s not prepared for the swarm that comes right at them when the game starts (“When did video games become so violent and scary?!” he begs the confused player). The Cy-bugs are pretty much living nightmare fuel, giant robotic bugs that lay acidic eggs and change into whatever they eat, meaning if they eat your weapon, they’ll suddenly grow bazooka launchers and fire at you while continuing to hunt you down. They’re real monsters that could easily overrun Hero’s Duty if it wasn’t for a beacon that destroys them like a giant bug zapper after every game. Ralph barely survives the encounter by throwing the player in the path of one and killing them off. This leads to Calhoun chewing out Ralph, not realizing he isn’t the marine she’s looking for, and I just have to share it with you –
Maybe it’s how simple it is or how John C. Reilly says it, I don’t know, I find that moment hilarious. Determined not to got through that again, Ralph starts climbing the building on his own while the squad goes readies themselves for the next quarter.
The player moves on to Fix-It Felix Jr. but as the game starts, the Nicelanders realize that someone is missing – Ralph! There’s nobody to wreck the building and make the game, you know, a game. This set-up is confusing for both Felix and the player, and the game becomes like a play where something goes wrong and the actors try to ad-lib their way around it and fail miserably. The player alerts the arcade manager, Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) and he’s forced to give the game the death sentence – an out-of-order sign. Unless the repairman can find everything running normally the next day, the game will be unplugged for good. Felix tries to calm the Nicelanders when the train returns supposedly carrying Ralph. It turns out to be Q*bert, however, and what follows is another great bit of video game fanservice where Felix and Q*bert communicate to each other in his native language, Q*bertese.
Actually, Q*Bert tells Felix that Ralph has gone turbo (there’s that word again…) and Felix leaves to find him.
By this time, Ralph has made it to the top floor and takes his medal with pride (being congratulated by the Allstate guy also really boosts his ego). Unfortunately he stumbles into a Cybug egg, hatching it and starting a chain reaction where all the other eggs hatch.
Calhoun and her cronies, meanwhile, hear something approaching them from behind and open fire – it’s just Felix, who only barely avoids getting killed thanks to his jumping skills (Felix jump good.) While initially terrified, he quickly becomes smitten with Calhoun and oh my glob you guys –
I am a little bit confused about his complimenting her beauty, though. He’s amazed by her high-definition, but I don’t see all that much detail separating him from her. Sure, Calhoun’s got nicely detailed armor, but we can still see individual strands of Felix’s hair. What’s so standard-def about that?
Felix tells her about Ralph and it’s around that time that Ralph stumbles into an escape pod with the Cybug attached to its face and, of course, it takes off. It blasts past Calhoun and Felix, out of the game, through Game Central Station, and into a Mario Kart-style racing game in a world of confectionery called Sugar Rush.
The pod crashes, ejecting Ralph into a candy cane forest and the cybug into a pond of goop. It’s at this time Ralph notices his medal has gone missing but finds it hanging from a branch high above him. As he climbs, he runs into an inquisitive young girl with candy in her hair who starts teasing him.
This is the film’s deuteragonist, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).
Yes, THIS is the character I was referring to before. I can’t think of a Disney character that’s gotten people so up in arms over her. Friendships have been destroyed, the internet has had a forest fire’s worth of flame wars, my relationship has been pushed to its breaking point over whether or not she’s a good character. You see, I like Vanellope. And my boyfriend…doesn’t. At all. Put a picture of her in front of him and he’ll react the way Regan from The Exorcist reacts to holy water.
To be fair, I can see where the complainers are coming from. Firstly, Sarah Silverman and her comedy is divisive at best. Her kind of humor is not for everyone, and my boyfriend isn’t a fan of hers in the slightest. Her voice can be sometimes be a touch grating on its own as well, so I understand how having to listen to her do a more high-pitched version of herself for 90 minutes would drive anyone mad. Second, the marketing for this film heavily featured the video game characters that we’re familiar with to the point where most of us assumed that they would have a larger role to play in the movie. People espoused that this would be the Who Framed Roger Rabbit of video game movies and they’re right, to an extent. The other characters are sprinkled throughout, at least for the first act, but from the point we meet Vanellope, her story intertwines with Ralph’s and we spend the majority of the film in Sugar Rush instead of meeting other familiar faces and hopping to new worlds. But hey, if Who Framed Roger Rabbit focused on nothing but cramming in as many cartoon cameos as possible instead of Roger and Eddie Valiant’s story, then we wouldn’t have the quite possibly one of the best movies in existence. We’d have Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue set in the 40’s. So me personally, I don’t hate Vanellope. She starts out a little annoying at first, but I found myself warming up to her as the film progresses. (And for putting up with that diatribe, here’s a fun fact: while creating Wreck-It Ralph, the filmmakers planned on having a fourth world similar to The Sims that Ralph would have gone to in the latter half when things were at their lowest before he picks himself up and goes to save the day. The directors cut it because they felt it ground the film to a halt, and they were right, so I have no qualms about it. Plus, I have yet to see a Sims arcade game anywhere, so good on them for making this film where video game characters are alive and coexist with each other as true to life as possible.)
Vanellope spies the medal, and thinking it’s a gold coin, snatches it before Ralph does and runs off with it. Ralph gives chase, which isn’t easy after falling into another puddle of candy glop and getting everything he touches stuck to him. Back in Game Central Station, Calhoun gives Felix the 411 on cybugs, telling them that they could eat up all of Sugar Rush in a heartbeat and have enough room left for the whole arcade if allowed to multiply. While she prepares to go handle the situation alone, one of the marines informs Felix of Calhoun’s troubled past – the one day she failed to do a perimeter check was her wedding day, resulting in a cybug crashing the ceremony (literally) and eating her fiancee.
He also makes special note of how Calhoun was programmed with this story, so technically it never really happened, but yet she still acts like it did and you can see it influencing a lot of her actions, especially around Felix (So one of the best characters has a past involving losing a loved one in one of the funniest yet also tragic ways possible…this really is the video game equivalent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit!) After listening to this tale, Felix insists on joining Calhoun in cleaning Ralph’s mess.
Back in Sugar Rush, the racers prepare to race to see who will compete in the next day’s roster. It’s here we meet Sugar Rush’s royal ruler, King Candy, played by Alan Tudyk doing a damn good impression of Ed Wynn. He’s like a more devious version of the Mad Hatter. All the racers need to do to race is to pay one gold coin, and Vanellope sneaks on to the track and submits the medal. Everyone is horrified that Vanellope is registered because we learn Vanellope is a glitch (an error in programming for those who don’t speak computer/gaming) who has a hard time staying in one place, and as an error, shouldn’t even exist in this game. King Candy sends his cops after her (they’re donuts, ha ha) but Ralph lumbers on to the scene like a candy-coated Incredible Hulk and chases her. With everyone distracted by the “monster”, Vanellope eludes both the cops and an angry Ralph and Ralph is taken to King Candy’s castle where oh Lordy Lou…
King Candy unmasks the monster and is surprised to find that it’s Wreck It-Ralph. Ralph explains about the medal and King Candy asks if he’s going turbo and I swear if they say that word one more time I’m making that Princess Bride reference I’m sure you’ve already made in your head. Candy tells him that the medal has been transformed into code and will only rematerialize when the race is won. He insists that Ralph be put on the next train home before that happens and leaves to apprehend Vanellope but Ralph ditches the cops and goes looking for her himself.
Ralph follows the other racers to Vanellope, who has just finished building her own pedal-powered go-kart and shows it off to them. None of them are impressed, least of all their leader Taffyta Muttonfudge (Mindy Kahling). This is the point where I started to side with Vanellope…mostly because I relate to her a lot in this scene. You see, Taffyta is acts like a valley-girl stereotype (the nasty blonde bimbo type that I had to put up with all the time in high school) and she starts bullying Vanellope by making fun of her glitch the way high school kids make fun of special needs kids’ tics (like how they made fun of me even though I’m not special needs and was even smarter than they were) and getting the other racers to gang up on Vanellope and destroy her kart and say she’ll never be worth anything (the way those bitches did to ME though if I had a freaking go-kart I would have run them over with it multiple times and laugh as their organs squished out of their skins THOSE ROTTEN HEARTLESS FAKE-TANNED BLEACHED-BLONDE – um, you get the idea.)
Even Ralph has had enough of their bullying and scares the Children of the Candy Corn off. He’s still understandably mad at Vanellope for taking his medal, though Vanellope tells him she would have given it back when she won. And of course, when Ralph tells her he got it from Hero’s Duty, Vanellope spends a nearly full minute making the most obvious jokes you can make from that title (remember, this IS Sarah Silverman we’re talking about). She tells him without a kart they’re both screwed, which makes Ralph so mad he smashes a jawbreaker in half. Awed by Ralph’s strength, Vanellope instantly develops a plan and gets Ralph to go along with it with the promise of getting his medal back.
Meanwhile, Felix and Calhoun search Sugar Rush for the cybug and he explains to her what exactly “going turbo” means – back when the arcade first opened, the most popular game was a racing game called Turbo Time, and the main character, Turbo, drunk up every ounce the attention he received. When a new racing game was put in that stole Turbo’s popularity, he tried to leave his game and take over that one, which resulted in both games crashing and being unplugged.
After his story, Felix and Calhoun fall into the worse kind of trap imaginable – cheap product placement disguised as puns!
Yes, I forgot to mention not only are there a lot of puns in this movie, especially in the Sugar Rush scenes, but every once in a while there’s a bit of product placement that’s just a tad distracting. I’m not referring to the licensed characters, I mean things like Subway and the above picture. And you know what helps them get of the…ugh, Nesquik-Sand? MORE product placement! When Felix starts to panic after the heavily rendered cocoa-flavored powder nixes his ability to jump good, Calhoun slaps him which makes a bunch of vines made out of Laffy Taffy laugh and come down to help them.
As much crap as I give this scene, I still find it pretty funny, especially when Felix takes Calhoun and they ascend like Superman carrying Lois Lane. The music becomes dramatic, the lighting becomes soft, a choir of heavenly voices harmonizes as Calhoun begins to see Felix in a way she hasn’t before – heroic and charming. And then we see the voices singing are the vines themselves who have formed a big heart around around them and are only scared off when Calhoun fires a few rounds.
Ralph and Vanellope enact their plan, which involves them sneaking into the go-kart factory and Ralph breaking down some huge barriers so they can play a build-a-kart minigame. It looks exactly like something you’d see in a Mario Kart/Party game with the music to match and it’s a helluva a lot of fun to play as it is to watch.
And call me crazy, but I’m starting to think the people working on this movie actually like video games. I don’t mean like where they see it as a huge potential cash grab, I mean like to the point where they do the research and create something that encompasses everything from certain styles of gaming without being lazy. Something that they themselves would want to play in a real arcade (and yes, there IS a real Fix-It Felix arcade machine that Disney itself sanctioned). They put actual effort into it! When was the last video game movie in recent years that did that?!
Ralph tries to help and the scene is like a parent or big brother helping their kid trying to win a prize at a carnival game. Of course, since Ralph is better at wrecking than creating, the kart becomes one big mess of sweets in car form. Ralph tries to apologize but Vanellope thinks it’s perfect (awwww)
They both sign their creation, but King Candy and his forces close in. Ralph tells Vanellope to step on it, but she reveals something she forgot to tell him previously – she doesn’t actually know how to drive.
I’m gonna let that sink in. The video game character whose dream is to race and has spent her whole life in a racing game doesn’t know how to drive.
I think I’m starting to see why people get so annoyed by her.
Anyway, Ralph uses his huge arms to propel the kart forward and King Candy gives chase. Vanellope manages to steer them into Diet Cola Mountain, where an unfinished level is hidden.
Ralph shares the audience’s frustration that Vanellope can’t drive and is ready to give up. When Vanellope asks why this stupid medal is so important, he tells her about how crummy his life is and how getting that medal back would change everything. Vanellope understands where he’s coming from and shows him around the huge cavern. This is where Vanellope hides out from Candy and his goons, using whatever bits of garbage she can scavenge to make a home for herself. It’s also home to the Cola Hot Springs, where Mentos stalactites (I wish I was making that bit of product placement up) occasionally fall from the ceiling and cause them to bubble up dangerously in a way I’m sure won’t come back for the finale. Because she’s a glitch, she can’t leave her game to find a better life like Ralph did, meaning she’s stuck in a world where everyone treats her like used gum because she’s not even supposed to exist.
With that said, Ralph makes a race track for her with the intention of teaching her to drive himself (he did crash a spaceship before, that counts as driving experience, right?) So my best guess is that the writers decided to make Vanellope not know how to drive so they could do a training montage. That’s all well and good, the gags are funny and we see Vanellope’s skills grow quickly, but did they really have to play “Shut Up and Drive” over the whole scene? It’s not that I don’t like Rhianna…well, actually I don’t, but that’s beside the point; even if you like the song it really dates the movie, and the sudden shift from a serious scene into a pop song throws me off. I usually prefer watching this part on mute and playing something from the movie’s score over it or just skipping it altogether.
The montage goes over well with Ralph’s only criticism being that she should get her glitch under control as teleporting in and out of place in the middle of a high speed race could possibly jeopardize their chances. King Candy returns to his palace emptyhanded, but comes up with a new plan. Using a cheat code, he enters the source of the game’s code and gets Ralph’s medal out of the winner’s cup. He then leaves to look for Ralph, putting his major domo, a candy ball named Sour Bill, in charge of the castle. As he exits, we see Vanellope’s name in a box floatling from the rest of the interconnected codes (hmmm….)
Felix fixes the escape pod and as Calhoun flies them to the castle, Felix admits his feelings for her. And since I can’t go five minutes without gushing over Felix –
Unfortunately, his choice of words to woo her with include “dynamite gal”, which was what Calhoun’s fiancee used to call her. Calhoun flashbacks to their most romantic moments (they’re both still wearing their combat armor while eating ice cream, enjoying the beach, going on a picnic), all while he only repeats the phrase “dynamite gal” over and over (good to see Hodor’s been brushing up on his vocabulary…) up until the moment he was eaten. Calhoun kicks out Felix, leaving him confused and brokenhearted. He goes to the castle and asks Sour Bill about Ralph, but not wanting to make the same mistake they did before with not locking up their previous interloper, Sour Bill throws Felix in the dungeon.
Vanellope and Ralph get ready to drive to the race track, but Vanellope goes back to her hideaway to get something. Once Ralph is alone, King Candy shows up and gives Ralph the medal. Ralph is two seconds away from pummeling him into pop rocks for being so against Vanellope racing (see, I can make product placement puns too) but Candy tells him exactly why – if she races and the players see her glitching, they’ll think the game is broken. It will be unplugged, making everyone in the game homeless like Q*Bert before them, except for Vanellope, who, because she’s a glitch, can’t leave and will die along with the game itself. Candy has been trying to stop her from racing for her own safety. Since Ralph is the only one she will listen to, he has to be the one to convince her to not race.
Now some people quickly caught on that King Candy is lying to get Ralph to stop Vanellope and ensure that whole “misunderstanding” cliche that I hate so much happens purely for plot’s sake. I didn’t, even though I could see the misunderstanding thing coming right after. You don’t see Candy smile gleefully after turning away or any other villain cliche, he’s completely serious throughout. Unshaved Mouse went into better detail than I could about this part and why it’s so good, and if you haven’t already checked out his stuff, then stop what you’re doing and read his reviews because they’re amazing (his thoughts on Chicken Little notwithstanding).
So Vanellope returns and look, it’s a medal she made just for Ralph (awwwww).
Ralph tries to convince Vanellope to put aside the race, but she sees his medal and knows Candy has gotten to him. Vanellope thinks Ralph sold her out, but Ralph refuses to back off and let her go. The two keep fighting, both of them unwilling to listen to the other, and gets so bad that Ralph has to do the unthinkable.
He grabs Vanellope, hangs her up where she can’t get to him, and destroys the kart they built in front of her.
It may not sound like the huge emotional gutpunch that it is, but this represented all of their dreams; this was something they created together. In any other movie this would seem cliche, but this isn’t happening between two adults, this is an adult and a child. Vanellope screaming mixed with just how violent they make the destruction of the kart, just….DAMN.
Vanellope runs off in tears and Ralph returns to Fix It Felix Jr. with his medal to find that everyone has abandoned it since Felix never returned and the game will be unplugged in a matter of hours. The only one who stayed behind is Gene, who, surprisingly, isn’t angry or upset with Ralph, just disappointed. He keeps his promise and gives Ralph the keys to the penthouse and quietly leaves. The conversation they have is more mature than I originally thought it would be, and I give props to both the writers and Persi for handling it this way.
Frustrated, Ralph throws his medal at the game screen, causing the out-of-order sign to tilt to one side. This gives Ralph a better view of the Sugar Rush game cabinet… which has artwork of Vanellope racing on it.
Ralph heads back to Sugar Rush and sucks on Sour Bill until he gives him some answers – I just have a gift for making things sound worse than they really are, don’t I? Sour Bill confesses that Vanellope is part of the game, but King Candy tried to delete her from the game’s code, meaning he’s the reason why she’s a glitch. Nobody remembers why or who Vanellope really is because King Candy also locked away the Sugar Rushers’ memories. If Vanellope races and crosses the finish line, the game will be reset, Vanellope will no longer be a glitch and King Candy, for whatever reason, would do anything to make sure that never happens.
Felix tries to break out of Candy’s fungeon (fun-dungeon, these puns just write themselves) but only proceeds to make things worse by making his cell even stronger with his magic fix-it hammer (“Why must I fix everything that I touch?!”) Ralph breaks in to rescue him and asks him to fix Vanellope’s kart, but Felix rants about everything he’s been put through because of Ralph and ohmigod he is just so cute when he’s angry!
Ahem, Ralph apologizes and for the first time Felix understands all the rejection and pain he’s been put through day after day. Again, going back to what I said before about Felix being a genuine good guy, he was just oblivious to what Ralph’s life has been like until now, not out of selfishness, but just pure ignorance. It’s a little moment of understanding that I think is great in cementing these two’s friendship. Ralph then saves Vanellope and brings her the restored kart just in time for the race to begin.
The race is an exciting one, and Vanellope quickly manages to catch up with the competition, even sticking it to Taffyta and her cronies by using her glitching to get ahead of them and make them crash.
Ralph and Felix watch the race in anticipation, but Calhoun shows up with some bad news. The cybug that supposedly drowned built a nest, multiplied in the catacombs of Sugar Rush and they’re going to break out and devour the place any moment – which they immediately do. Calhoun rounds up the characters and leads them to Game Central Station while Felix and Ralph stay to fight the cybugs and make sure Vanellope gets to the finish line safely.
Vanellope is neck and neck with King Candy and he starts playing dirty to get her to crash. As he attacks her, she glitches and it passes on to him, revealing his true form – TURBO!
And because I’m sure someone will bring this up eventually, I may as well say it – from what I’ve gathered, Turbo has amassed an…unusual fanbase. The rabid driving-ladies-wild kind of fanbase. The kind of fanbase that fawns over him the way others do for Loki or Zuko, tragic characters who have every right to be fawned over this way. I’m not gonna lie and say I understand this because I really, really don’t –
– but I’m not gonna make fun of you fangirls for liking him, because frankly I’ve found much WORSE fetishes for other Disney villains out there (Deviantart is a place both wondrous and terrifying to behold.)
Seeing they’re about to crash together, Vanellope gets her glitching under control and teleports to safety while Candy-Turbo is eaten by a cybug. More cybugs appear, making her crash just feet away from the finish line, which is then eaten by the bugs. Ralph tries to leave with Vanellope, but Candy wasn’t lying about her not being able to exit the game because of her glitch. She heartbreakingly tells Ralph to go on without her. It seems like she and Sugar Rush are doomed…until Calhoun mentions the beacon from her game. Inspired, Ralph takes Calhoun’s hoverboard (because I can’t be the only one who calls it that) and flies back to Diet Cola Mountain to do some wrecking. He makes it to the top and starts mashing in the Mentos to create a new beacon when he’s stopped by –
Remember how those cybugs become what they eat? Well now King Candy/Turbo is a cybug virus that scuttles around like a scorpion with a creepy clown bobblehead attached. It’s not the scariest villain transformation Disney’s ever done, but I can see why it would terrify some people. You have to see it in motion to get why, stills don’t do it justice. After Sugar Rush is destroyed, King TurBug (because what else am I gonna call it?) intends to take over any game he wishes now that he’s in an even more powerful form (I’d put the “Of course!” joke here but I don’t want to repeat myself). The final fight between him and Ralph is very similar to a final boss fight until he grabs Ralph and forces him to watch as his friends get eaten by cybugs. It seems like game over for everyone, but Ralph realizes what he has to do.
He breaks free of Candy’s grip and plummets to the earth, ready to wreck it one last time. He holds Vanellope’s medal, looking at it as he repeats the Bad-Anon affirmation.
I will never be good and that’s not bad.
There’s not one I’d rather be…than me.”
The stage is set for a beautiful, tragic but uplifting sacrifice…until Vanellope rides through the mountain on a kart and catches Ralph in the nick of time. I know I should be mad that they decided to play it safe at the last moment, but we both know Disney would never kill off a main character who’s name is in the title and isn’t Old Yeller. As much as it would have been a good conclusion to Ralph’s arc of learning what it really means to be a hero, it would have also left the problem of what happens to the Nicelanders and Felix afterwards unresolved since there’s no one to be the bad guy. And I really do like Ralph, so I don’t want to see him die after everything he’s been through.
The Mentos ceiling collapses into the hot springs and creates a beacon, drawing all the cybugs including King Candy into it, because if horror movies have taught me anything fire is the one sure way to get rid of all bugs (game over, man!) Ralph and Vanellope land safely in a chocolate lake (and I forgot to mention Ralph makes a point of saying he doesn’t like chocolate throughout the film, which would normally make him dead to me, but he’s so happy to be alive that he declares he loves it now) and Felix and Calhoun share a kiss (yay!)
Felix fixes up the finish line and Vanellope crosses it, causing Sugar Rush to be restored and transforming her in a shower of magical sparkles into a princess (Disney magic, bitches!). The Sugar Rushers memory returns and they now remember Vanellope is in fact the rightful ruler of Sugar Rush.
All the racers immediately start
sucking up apologizing for how they treated her, and Vanellope gently decrees that they shall all be…executed.
Nah, it turns out Vanellope is just messing with them (darn it!) and Vanellope turns down the princess title to make the kingdom more of a democracy with her as President. She tells Ralph that he can stay here with her where nobody can make fun of him or hate him ever again, but Ralph knows he has a duty to wrecking his own game and goes back home.
Everyone gets a happy ending – Fix It Felix Jr. is saved from being unplugged, the Nicelanders show their appreciation for Ralph by making him his own cake, Felix and Calhoun tie the knot (with every marine present to ensure there’s no bugs,) and Ralph gives Q*Bert and his friends a new home and job by giving them a bonus level in the game, which I’m sure will give rise to some interesting debates on certain forums –
Ralph relates all this to the Bad-Anon villains, and closes with this heartwarming observation: what was once one of the worst part of his job is now the best, because when the Nicelanders lift him up, he can see Vanellope racing over in Sugar Rush. The players love her, regardless of her glitch. “It turns out I don’t need a medal to tell me I’m a good guy, cuz if that little kid likes me, how bad can I be?”
And that’s how it ends. No last minute puns or montages or dance numbers (though the end credits has more 8-bit fun and a catchy-as-hell song), just a pure introspective heartwarming moment. And I love it.
Rich Moore, the director of Wreck-It Ralph, had previously worked on The Simpsons and Futurama when both series were in their prime and it shows. The balance between heartwarming and humorous really comes through, and most of all, there’s so much love for video games put into every second, with cameos by the dozen, references ranging from the obscure to the iconic, and satirizing popular games while also showing why they still resonate with people thirty years after Pac-Man munched his first pellet. There’s a reason why many gamers consider this to be the greatest video game movie ever made, and it’s not just because everything else that came before it is prime Rifftrax material. If you haven’t already, check it out and decide for yourself.
Thank you for reading. If you like what you see and want more reviews, vote for what movie you want me to look at next by leaving it in the comments or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, you can only vote once a month. The list of movies available to vote for are under “What’s On the Shelf”.
Various screencaps courtesy of disneyscreencaps.com (except for the ones I had to make myself because the site HAD to go down on the day I finally finished this review and all I had to do was download a few measly pictures but for some reason it kept shorting out and wouldn’t even let me look at them to download not that I’m bitter or anything…)
Wait, can it be? It is! It’s my first review done under one month! Everyone do the Dance of Joy!!