Saturday, December 29, 2012

D52 - Week 52 - Wreck-It Ralph

[NOTE: These reviews are fairly spoiler-free until the fair-warning section further below.]

Knit-it Amanda

I feel grateful for having lived through what I feel are two separate Disney Re-births. Wreck-It Ralph might not yet be as iconic as The Lion King and might not win as many awards as Beauty and the Beast (or maybe it will, time will tell), but it does feel well seated in a new era of quality.
It seems we're finally to a point where most computer animation is starting to look pretty high quality no matter who or what renders it.  The design and render team really did a terrific job making each video game world look distinct and separate and yet still make sense amongst the many other little worlds.  Each character also makes perfect sense within their worlds right down to the way they move.  The heavily pixelated characters make herky jerky movements but the realistic characters are smooth and perhaps overly agile, but it doesn't distract from the whole.  If you've ever played Super Smash Bros and thought nothing at all of how these characters would ever meet up and fit together, than you understand the weird okkay-ness of it.

I'll do my best to explain how enjoyable I found the story without spoiling it.  This was a challenge in making relateable conflicts in a fantastic world.  Who hasn't felt unfulfilled in their job or neighborhood?  Who hasn't felt a higher calling deep in their bones?  More than anything, this movie is about finding yourself.  On the one hand, some people find happiness right back where they started, and others find happiness when things change a great deal.  A couple of other coordinating themes are tucked in without fighting with the main story, and are equally moving, but I'll keep them to myself in order not to spoil the movie if you haven't seen it.  Whether changes occur within you or around you, you'll find happiness if you make peace with it.

I was thrilled with the soundtrack!  Once again, each character had a bit of a theme that followed them around and it was entertaining to hear a certain theme in the setting of another gameworld but also to hear how it was clearly scored with its original gameworld in mind.  There was a nice mix of catchy video game repetitiveness with subtle background music.

And let's not forget about the joys of the cameo appearance. I grew up with a controller in my hands and laughed every time I spotted a reference.  Sometimes they were subtle and sometimes they were flashy, but everytime it made me feel like part of the in crowd.

Favorite Character: Felix.  He's just such an everyman.  He's as naive and good as no man in the real world ever seems to be anymore.
Least Necessary Character: The repairman.  No, seriously.  You'll get it when you watch it.
Overall: I loved it and if you can stand a couple of gradeschool poop jokes, you'll love it to.

Rec'-It Kevin

This is the second "cheat" of our one-movie-for-each-week "rule." We had no DVD access throughout our honeymoon (would we have watched Atlantis at the hotel if it had one? ...maybe) so watched it the week after along with Lilo & Stitch. As for this Wreck-It-Ralph, we saw it on November 14th, partly because it looks unsure whether or not it'll still be available to see anywhere by the last week of December. If it is, I'd love to watch it again on that week! In case not, though, we're writing about it a couple of days after so that it's still fresh in our minds, but setting the post to show up in late, late December.

[LATER EDIT: It turns out we were able to see it in theaters during the 52nd week of 2012, and it was indeed worth seeing again anyway!

I probably have already started to sound like I'm obsessed with it or something, but I think it's appropriate enough to compare this movie to, yes, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit??" In WFRR's universe, not only do the toons exist and interact directly with humans, but Roger Rabbit  exists as an already-established character. Which is to say, Roger didn't exist in our world until that movie (or book. But even before that Roger Rabbit wasn't an "actual" comic strip character) was made. Fix-It Felix Jr. is obviously heavily inspired by the early Mario games - in the same way Roger is heavily inspired by Bugs and Daffy. And funnily enough Bugs and Daffy exist in Roger's world, which makes you wonder if Roger's "birth" (how exactly the characters in that movie come into existence could be a whole other blog post) was related in any way to Bugs and Daffy's existence. Now going back to the arcade universe, Mario exists along with Wreck-It Ralph and Fix-It Felix...are they aware of their games' similarities? Jumping back again, imagine if that other movie was instead "Who Framed Bugs Bunny?" It might not have worked as well, because the moviegoer would go into it already having certain perceptions of what to expect of the character. But because he or she had no previous frame of reference for Roger Rabbit, the character can be built and liked as the movie progresses and shows you on its own what he's all about. Now, back again: Because Ralph, Felix, and the other new characters as just that - new characters - it's again entirely up to the movie to get you to like them. And it does a great job at it. The "new" video games are such convincing pastiches that I genuinely want to play those games. Will the actual released multi-console Wreck-It Ralph tie-in game do any of them justice? I...wouldn't count on it, sadly.

To talk of it without spoiling much, I can say that I enjoyed it very much and I'm sure it'd make it onto the list of my top 5 favorite D52 if I were to make such a list, which I might. As a D52 movie, though, it's very...unlike the others. It's one of the funniest ones (the trailer jokes do not do it justice). It's surprisingly well-written...well, maybe not all that surprisingly given Rich Moore's Simpsons and Futurama cred. There are a lot of set-ups that pay off satisfyingly well later on. There's even one or two things that seem like an obvious set-up that end up not paying off, which I choose to take as an intentional red herring to keep you guessing what is and isn't a set-up. If that makes any sense.

The music is also pastiche'd very nicely. WIR is another of those few Disney movies where none of the characters sing (party whooping and chanting not counted), so the underlying soundtrack seems that much more significant. I particularly appreciated Sgt. Calhoun's theme, which surely must have been inspired by the music from the Metroid games. And "Sugar Rush" is a little too earwormy.

From the moment I saw the first trailer for the first time I was a bit skeptical that the movie would rely too much on simply making video game references for the sake of references (ahem, Scott Pilgrim vs the World), but it again parallels "WFRR!!" by indulging in a large dollop of recognizable characters (and some not-so-recognizable, to let the hardcore fans brag about being familiar with the obscure ones) near the beginning of the movie, but easing up on those references once it gets into the nitty-gritty of things. I appreciate that. It strikes a good compromise between appealing to the video game fans and appealing to those who would rather see new things. Heck, I think I like the new video game characters better than the "classic" ones.

All in all.... I'm gonna rec(commend) it.



The Toy Story movies are all great, but they still leave me with questions about the precise details of how things work in that universe. Like, what constitutes a toy, to the point where it's given a consciousness? In the third movie a keychain can talk. Also in the Toy Story Toon "Small Fry," there's a joke about a Buzz Lightyear Belt Buckle talking to a Zurg using only beeps..somehow. If someone fashions a paperclip into the shape of a bunny will it then be able to hop around when the humans aren't looking? How about a paper doll? What about Silly Bandz? Do they move on their own, and if so why not regular rubber bands? Where is the line drawn? At what point in a toy's assembly does it have a life? Was Mr. Potato Head able to see from his not-yet-connected eyes before they were packaged with his potato body?

Similarly, I'm wondering a lot of things about Wreck-It Ralph. Why exactly do the "retro" characters look pixelated through the arcade cabinet screen though they're less blocky "in-person?" Maybe it's a distance thing? A perception filter? Can the characters only jump to other games on the same surge protector or could they travel even further down the electrical line to other buildings? As little as I care for sequels in general I feel like there are a lot of possibilities here. What happens if one or more Fix-It Felix Jr. cabinets share nearby power circuits? Would Felix be able to meet himself? Would they be different in any way? Maybe that would be too similar to Buzz Lightyear meeting another Buzz Lightyear. But how about this. Sugar Rush is basically two game cabinets hooked up to the same multiplayer capabilities, right? What happens if one player starts a Sugar Rush game and afterward another starts their own new game while the first is still playing? They would both be playing the same game at the same time but the Sugar Rush characters would be doing different things. So which cabinet has the "real" Vanellope von Schweetz? Speaking of VvS, how's an observation that I can only now make in a spoiler-warning zone: Vanellope is the newest and youngest Disney Princess. AND she's the only one without a love interest, isn't she?

LATER THOUGHTS: It seems I was in the minority of those distracted by the SUBWAY brand cup in the arcade. It's one thing when real-life product-mentioning shows up in movies as a storytelling device - for which I believe NesQuik sand (I considered making a comic about how Felix Jr and Calhoun should've been really scared in that situation, since NesQuik was recalled recently, but who else but me would've gotten that?) and Laffy Taffy do indeed count, but there's no reason it couldn't have just been a generic cup. You just know the logo's only there because Subway had its Wreck-It Ralph promotion, and when a movie makes you think about how it's a movie, that crosses the line of distraction.

Considering that really is the only complaint I can think of, and it's something that you probably didn't or wouldn't even notice yourself, so that's saying something.
I'm already looking forward to the DVD release.

Favorite character:  I can't help but identify with Felix Jr.'s very square sensibilities. 
Least necessary character: Why the heck does M. Bison get movie theater cardboard standing poster front-and-center billing? I think he may have had, like, one line, maybe, but I don't remember what it was. And Street Fighter is already represented in the same scene by Zangief (letting aside the issue of whether or not Zangief really is technically a "bad guy"), who at least provides some comic relief.
Overall: This is exactly the kind of Disney movie that I've been wanting for .. as long as I've watched Disney movies .. and not even solely because it appeals to my video game fan sensibilities...though that does help.


  1. Now that you're done with the D52 thing, I expect your Disney honeymoon review with pictures to be up soon.
    Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks! I promise I have been working on it (in chunks at a time) for weeks and weeks... but yeah, it should be coming along more quickly from here on. And oh there are pictures! I like your enthusiasm about it and hope you have a Happy New Year too!


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