Friday, December 28, 2012


Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" is the Pixar movie that Pixar didn't release this year. Rich with unbridled originality, much like what we're used to expecting from the studio who has been disappointing most recently with "Cars 2" and "Brave," the arcade video game world in which Disney's latest CGI outing takes place is a whole new universe to get lost in. The imagination behind the film's opening sequences is astounding and awe-inspiring.

We first meet Ralph (John C. Reilly) inside his game, Fix It Felix Jr., where Felix (Jack McBrayer) climbs a building fixing the spots where Ralph is destroying walls and windows. Felix saves the citizens of the apartment building earning a gold medal, and Ralph gets thrown off the roof into a mud puddle. Every single game. And Ralph is tired of being the bad guy, as he tells his video game villain support group featuring the likes of the Pac-Man ghost and Bowser. Beyond Ralph's own game, there is a whole inner network of games via wires and cords, a game central station where characters can journey between the different video games placed around the arcade. While also packed with real world game references which are fun nods to video game fans (Metal Gear Solid and Sonic are among those making an appearance), the majority of Ralph's adventure takes place in two fictional games: a Halo-style first-person shooter called Hero's Duty and a hybrid of Candy Land and Mario Kart called Sugar Rush.

The level of detail in each game world is specific and matches each game's style. The pixelated world of Fix It Felix Jr. has characters move as if they're 16-bit characters even in full-fledged CGI animation, which is compared to the more realistic, high-definition world of Hero's Duty and the bubbly colors and textures of Sugar Rush. A catchy, electronic score matches the atmosphere making this video game universe a complete package, reminiscent of the deep sea world of "Finding Nemo" or the space station of "WALL-E." Again, more comparisons to a Pixar standard of quality.

Ralph is on a quest to earn himself a medal to prove to the apartment citizens in the Fix It Felix Jr. game that bad guys can earn hero medals, too. He first sneaks into Hero's Duty, but then accidentally ejects himself into Sugar Rush where he meets an energy ball of a little girl named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) who's dream is to be one of the racers on the roster of her game. She shares a dilemma with Ralph, however, because she's a glitch in the game and is cast as an outsider, unwanted and alone. King Candy (Alan Tudyk) is after her because he doesn't want her to be in Sugar Rush's race roster as a glitch. And while Ralph is trying to help Vanellope, Felix and a character from Hero's Duty, rough-and-tumble Calhoun (Jane Lynch), are out searching to return Ralph to his game before it's forced out of order.

Most of the adventure takes place in Sugar Rush and can start to feel repetitive, but then -- after a quick montage driven by a Rihanna song -- the story smacks us with a huge emotional wallop that really hits the movie home making it quite moving, heartfelt and, well, sweet. This was Disney's year in animation with both "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Frankenweenie," which, while less successful at the box office, was the other animated critical hit next to "Paranorman." And John Lasseter (who's otherwise been mostly a Pixar loyalist) as executive producer only further proved the studio's faith in the wonderful original piece. Your move, Pixar.

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