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Nordling Puts Down His Quarter For WRECK-IT RALPH!

Nordling here.

Nostalgia can only get you so far, and the makers of WRECK-IT RALPH know this.  The trailers, posters, and spots have been full of video game references and characters, but it was important for Rich Moore and the animators and writers to make WRECK-IT RALPH not just a movie where in-jokes and beloved video game characters dominate, and that was a smart move.  When those moments come (and they come fairly quickly), they're genuinely funny but they don't take the movie off track.

That's a good thing, because the story of WRECK-IT RALPH is compelling without all that nostalgia clogging up the works.  Ralph (John C. Reilly) is getting a bit tired of his role as a villain in his game, Fix-It Felix Jr.  Everyday, he gets up from his stump and pile of bricks that he calls home. goes to destroy the apartment building that forced him to move, and Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) repairs all the damages and goes home to celebrate every night with the denizens of the apartment building.  Ralph never gets to go inside and join in the fun, and he's got a serious complex about it, as he shares his woes with the other bad guys in the arcade.  All he wants is to be recognized for his role in things, but it's not his place to question it, but to go on with his life.

It's the 30th anniversary of FIX-IT FELIX JR, and Ralph decides to go to the party in the game's honor, but the apartment dwellers don't want him there.  He lives a solitary life - if only he could get a medal, like all the heroes do, maybe people will credit Ralph for his contributions.  So Ralph breaks the cardinal rule of the arcade - no gamejumping - to join Hero's Duty and win a medal, and maybe then he'll be taken seriously.  Through a series of misadventures, Ralph loses his medal and winds up in Sugar Rush, a kiddie racing game, and meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman).  They end up making an arrangement - if Ralph can help her win the race, Vanellope will help Ralph get his medal back.  But things aren't as they seem in Sugar Rush - King Candy (Alan Tudyk) rules that land, and wants to do everything in his power to keep Vanellope from racing.  Meanwhile, Felix and Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the leader of Hero's Duty, have to find Ralph and bring him back before his bumblings undo all the games in the arcade.  Ralph must learn what it really means to step out of his place and become a real hero.

The visuals of WRECK-IT RALPH are beautiful, especially in Sugar Rush, which is practically visual diabetes with all the confections and sweets on display.  Moore and the animators do a terrific job in backgrounds and characters, even in the little ways they move.  The Pac-Man ghosts can only travel in straight lines, for instance, and the people of Fix-It Felix Jr move with a jerky motion that suggests they're simply not programmed to move fluidly.  Again, the video game references are funny, but they don't overpower the movie.  Even subtle little moments recall earlier Nintendo games - my favorite involves something that METAL GEAR SOLID fans will appreciate, and I'll leave it at that - but Moore keeps the material moving.

Everyone gives great vocal performances, especially Reilly, who puts all the angst and humor he can in Ralph.  Sarah Silverman gives Vanellope that bubble-gum spunk that at times makes the character a little ingratiating, but she's going to be a big hit with the kids, I'd imagine.  My favorite character, though, has to be Jane Lynch's Calhoun, who has been given "the most tragic backstory in videogames" - a tough-as-nails fighter who hides some inner pain and loss.  Lynch is funny and moving, and Lynch and McBrayer riff off each other in terrific ways.

If there are any complaints on my end, it's that I wish the filmmakers had figured out a way to explore their universe a bit more - for the most part, we only see three game worlds, and i would have liked to see that opened up.  We spend a lot of time in Sugar Rush, and the color palette and scenery is a bit aggressive but the animators keep coming up with clever imagery and ideas to keep that section of the movie visually interesting.  The pacing of WRECK-IT RALPH slows a bit once we go into Sugar Rush, but the movie is never dull.

I can easily see this becoming another franchise for Disney, especially with all the possibilities of different games interacting with each other.  Not just for nostalgia's sake, but I would have really liked going into Street Fighter's world.  There are a ton of Easter Eggs in WRECK-IT RALPH - this is a video game movie, after all - and much of the fun is trying to spot all of them.  WRECK-IT RALPH is cute and fun, and while I don't think it's the best animated movie of the year, it's going to please most everyone who sees it, especially if you've grown up during that wonderful time of arcade games.

Finally, "Paperman" is one of the most beautiful bits of animation to ever come out of Disney Studios.  I know that's saying a lot, but I could have watched "Paperman" on a loop for two hours.  Easily worth the price of admission.  It's really that good.

Nordling, out.  Follow me on Twitter!

Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 3, 2012, 1:44 p.m. CST

    PAPERMAN is an animated version of this live action short ...

    by justmyluck ... except with the papers folded into airplanes. Then turns to BRAZIL's Harry Tuttle being swarmed by paperwork. Still gets an A for execution, with that heart-swelling score by Cristophe Beck. Will definitely get nominated for Oscar, as voters are fairly conservative, and PAPERMAN'S luminous B&W depiction of America's postwar era should be right up their alley. As for RALPH, it hit all the required nostalgia buttons and the audience I was with enjoyed it completely. Disney Animation is definitely looking up!

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 1:55 p.m. CST

    i want to see this

    by mick vance

    but think i'm just gonna stay home, get drunk, and play donkey kong on my wii...

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 2:03 p.m. CST

    Metal Gear Solid

    by You Have MY Voice

    If you're referring to what I think you are, I thought it was a CONTRA reference. Loved this. Will see it again. And PAPERMAN was simply beautiful.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 2:07 p.m. CST

    I will not see this out of spite for Jane Lynch.

    by Stifler's Mom

    I am so fucking sick of her shtick, her same fucking snarky supporting character popping up in otherwise in good comedies. She has not one inch of range. She's the female Ken Jeong.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 2:43 p.m. CST

    Jane Lynch. Yeah. That's pretty much the kiss of death.

    by Raptor Jesus

    I'm sick to death of her smugness and arrogance. She is definitely a song with one note and it's a pretty boring note.

  • I was trying to get my nephew to play some fucking star wars battlefront with me. He plays it for few seconds then gives up and says "it's too hard." I'm ready to smack a kid, YOU THINK THIS SHIT IS HARD? Back in my day, we didn't have no continues, you developed skill. I played game boy color bitch. You know how hard to find those pokemon were? You know how hard that fucking mario dx was son? You don't even know.... sorry.... it's just... ugh, kids these days...

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 5 p.m. CST

    Paperman should win best animated short

    by Jared Gibbs

    I thought it was just pitch perfect actually.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 6:55 p.m. CST

    Game Difficulty

    by Relugus

    The amount of checkpoints and on-screen instructions in modern video-games is absurd; they pretty much hold your hand. Very few modern games let the player figure things out, figure out how to overcome an obstacle. Now, its partially true that because those games were relatively small the difficulty was a means to compensate for the shortness of the games, but its still striking how much hand-holding there is these days. I can remember when there was no regenerating health meter (which would be considered a cheat in old-school games), no saves, and while continues have been around since the eighties, you had a limited amount, usually three. There are still great games around (Minecraft, Ghost Trick, Portal 2, Virtua Fighter 5, etc), but I do laugh at CoD gamers who think they are "hardcore", when they would be reduced to tears by Ninja Gaiden, F-Zero GX, Castlevania, Power Strike, Battletoads, GG Shinobi, etc.

  • BTW, Jane Lynch is great in this, showing - you guessed it - range. In an animated film. JCR is the goods, though.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 7:51 p.m. CST

    You can basically get through an entire FPS by camping

    by terry1978

    Most players just fire blindly, wait until the health regenerates, then go back to it. While it requires reflexes, it's tedious as fuck.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 10:25 p.m. CST

    Yeah, NEA-era games were fucking BRUTALLY difficult

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Shit like Ninja Gaiden had me practically ready to hurl my controller at the screen. And what about Contra? Even with the "Konami Code" (which was actually references in Wreck-It Ralph, a great geek-out moment), 30 lives don't mean that much when ONE FUCKING HIT will kill you. And a lot of those early Nintendo games wouldn't even allow you to save, meaning you had to beat games like Mega Man in ONE SITTING. Today's gamers are fucking pussies. If you didn't have a subscription to Nintendo Power, there were games where you literally would have NO IDEA how to beat, because of some ridiculously obscure puzzle or hidden item. Try beating Dracula in Castlevania, and you will know the true meaning of the word "frustration".

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 10:26 p.m. CST

    NES-era games

    by Nasty In The Pasty


  • Listening to people talk about how hard games used to be out of one side of their mouth like a badge of honor while delightedly repping their favorite CHEAT MAGAZINES is hilarious. You weren't hard, man. Most of us weren't hard. We were angry, and we were cheaters and exploiters back when you had to pay for the privilege. I single-handedly discovered the double-whistle cheat in Super Mario Bros. 3 which let me beat the game in 13 minutes. But I don't swing my dick around wishing games were still unjustifiably hard. What you really mean is, "Game developers were dicks back then. I wish kids still had to grow up in a world where game developers were dicks so they would suffer as much as I did." Fuck that. Many of our games were sucky-shitty-fucked-up hard. No saves. No continues. Listening to someone wax nostalgic about FAILURES IN GAME DESIGN makes me roll my eyes. Like the battered wife who quietly mutters that he only hits her because he loves her so much. The age of 2 hours of content you play 50 times over until you feel like you're playing a 100 hour game is over. Fucking good riddance. Nowadays you pay for games that are actually worth your money. I will drop a deuce on Super Mario Bros. and Ninja Gaiden and Captain Skyhawk today and not look back no matter how much I enjoyed those games back then. They can eat a dick.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 10:37 p.m. CST

    The biggest complaint about this film is always-

    by annie_michael_hall

    ..."I wish they went into [Fill in the blank] game". My friend wanted them to go into the zombie/ House of the Dead game. Nordling wanted Street Fighter. The point was that the story was actually stronger and better serviced staying in Sugar Rush/Hero's Duty/Fix It Felix Jr. I think the filmakers wanted to keep fan service to a minimum. And I also think those complaints are actually endorsements of the strong world that the film creates outside of those three principal games in such a limited amount of time. I LOVED the film. One of my favorites this year. And the Sugar Rush theme song should be nominated for an Oscar.

  • Nov. 3, 2012, 10:57 p.m. CST

    ho-hum, boooooorrrrrrinnnnnnnggggg

    by cozy

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 12:08 a.m. CST

    Not a flaw in game design, a Challenge

    by Pipple

    I don't have a problem with checkpoints. It's the infinite continues that make games basically not games anymore, just interactive movies. Really put your balls on the line and try to argue MGS4 is anywhere near as beast mode throbbing hard as MGS. That trying to keep spunky alive in rocko's modern life for snes wasn't a bitch and no game today compares to that. Or that fucking animaniacs game which I struggled to beat but was it oh so satisfying to finish that bull shit. I swear to JESUS in heaven the day I beat that level I'd been trying to beat all day in Mario DX for GBC was the most rewarding experience of my life. I felt like a GOD for having not given up on that shit. No kids today are saying that they had the balls to give a game one more try when they'd played and played and failed time and time again and that's a daaaaaaaaamn shame. If this is the next generation who's going to take over the world after we're all dead. Then we're screwed...

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 2:06 a.m. CST

    Metal Gear Solid reference

    by Larry_Sanders

    is actually an exclamation mark popping up over a character's head when he's surprised. Nothing to do with Contra.

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 10:35 a.m. CST

    In my day, we didn't have video games!

    by the dolphins are in the jacuzzi

    We just sat around and watched a potato bake!

  • But don't you see!? What made me such an epic gamer was that I had the fortitude and the resilience to beat the incredibly easy levels 1-5 over thirty times just so I could beat levels 6-7 nine times and then beat that final boss once! I felt so amazing.

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Ugh, quotes are ruining the code.

    by Baked

    The basics of good game design: higher levels of engagement = better. *But don't you see!? What made me such an epic gamer was that I had the fortitude and the resilience to beat the incredibly easy levels 1-5 over thirty times just so I could beat levels 6-7 nine times and then beat that final boss once! I felt so amazing.* Old school gaming was one or two hours of content where failure on a difficult part of the game meant starting over at the easy part of the game and being forced to play through it all over again. Translation: low engagement, bad game design. Yes, it's a challenge, but it also means forcing players to spend about 90% of their time with the least interesting parts of the game. An easy way to break it down is thus... New-school gaming? Only play the hardest parts of the game. Old-school gaming? The whole game is significantly HARDER than the hardest part of the game. But most of the game is actually spent playing the easiest, most boring parts of the game. So while games may *feel* easier, they're actually better designed and more engaging than old-school games. Which makes them better games overall.

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 1:20 p.m. CST

    The product placement was agonizing....

    by Roketopunch

    I felt 50% of the jokes fell flat and the second half was weak. This movie is perfect for molding future consumers. This is consumer exploitation at its best.

  • All these GTA clones can suck my dick. I'd rather play oregon trail again than Red Dead redemption honestly. The ghostbusters game for commodore 64 is better designed than the big loud visual masturbation that is the new game that came out, though I quite enjoyed it nonetheless... I'm not even going to try defending the multitude of awful old games I used to play that were garbage from the get-go, like jedi power battles, or diddy kong racing, Bart's Nightmare, MK subzero, batman forever (practically all movie based games really). But seriously well made games from the 2d era that demanded you show patience, deftness, quick reflexes, sometimes just getting lucky, that's a great game that the next Halo Clone or GTA Wannabe that's coming out can't compare itself to. Once again I reiterate how dissappointed I am in the No consequences just play the level again until you beat it, system we have now. Ya think a kid's going to give a level EVERYTHING HE'S GOT if he can just get another try anyway? Come on...

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 6:21 p.m. CST

    Piss easy games that with watered down content are not engaging

    by NotEnoughBiehn

    New-school gaming? Only play the hardest parts of the game.

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 6:33 p.m. CST

    Ok, no quotes

    by NotEnoughBiehn

    A couple years ago I decided to play System Shock 2 and Bioshock simultaneously. After I got a few hours into each, I lost the will to play the latter. With it's no-cost respawn chambers, lack of stat building (even though it was supposedly the spiritual successor to SS2), lack of comparable danger and tension, I found Bioshock to be a trifle. What they had promised was to be an immersive sim in the mold of System Shock, turned out to be little more than Quake with body modification. This story repeats itself with nearly every remake, re-imagining, spiritual successor, or long awaited continuation of an older series. -New-school gaming? Only play the hardest parts of the game.- Except the new school games people laud around here have no hardest parts. They are uniformly brainless. I don't see anyone discussing the intricacies of Crusader Kings 2 or how to get Pure Platinum in Bayonetta. I see fapping to Uncharted and Assassin's Creed I'm engaged by intricate and emergent systems, fine-tuned and rigorous mechanics and challenges, brain-bending puzzles, high dexterity requirements, hard choices and consequences, complex strategic and tactical considerations, and overall problem solving. Pressing I Win and Awesome buttons between story points is not engaging.

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 6:57 p.m. CST

    My wife thought I was a big geek...

    by Nice Marmot

    ...until I finally forced her to read an AICN Talk Back. This one....

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 9:43 p.m. CST


    by Mono

    Hear, hear.

  • Nov. 4, 2012, 11:43 p.m. CST

    Old games did more with less. BUT...

    by MCVamp

    If your barometer for "good old days" contains a complaint about how kids don't appreciate the hard work that goes into playing a video game...I mean holy shit. Get that kid a bat and a ball.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 8:04 a.m. CST

    Great Movie. As far as hard games...

    by Dranem

    The games I had the hardest time ever with were both on old and new gen systems. Festers Quest and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NOT the arcade version, the one with swimming levels) on the NES, and Ninja Gaiden II on the Xbox 360 on Master Ninja mode took me about 2 months of trial and error. Still, nothing beats the original NES for difficulty, especially when most games couldn't be saved outside of a password system. You truly felt a sense of achievement beating one of those games. Back to Ralph though, took my 3 year old son to see this and we both enjoyed it. Sugar Rush was really well realized and Jane Lynch did a great job, and I usually can't stand her.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Some of the lines in this were just fantastic.

    by TheMachinist

  • when Ralph came up with the "cabinet artwork means she must be in the game" argument?

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 10:03 a.m. CST


    by J

    Thank You! Sad that it took two pages of talkback before someone mentioned that.... Just sayin'

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 11:42 a.m. CST

    Nordling, 'Ingratiating' doesn't mean what you think it means.

    by RK_Maroon

    Stating that Vanellope's voice might be ingratiating means that it's endearing. I think you mean grating.

  • Nov. 5, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    THE TRAILER ....

    by Todaysfate

    Same as it ever was .... Same as it ever was ... LOL