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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…
And has some name actors playing the parts…
And features some of the most iconic and beloved video game characters of all time…
And it takes place in different video game worlds in a single arcade…
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?