Video games and movies have never had a happy marriage. Good games rarely become good movies and good movies rarely become good games. But there had to be a sweet spot, and Disney has found it. That sweet spot is Wreck-It Ralph, a movie set in the world of video games, but not bound by any one in particular. It’s a smart, fun, entertaining film for the whole family that constantly surprises and provides laughs while always focusing on its clever, heartwarming story. And while a knowledge of Sega, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft isn’t essential, it surely enhances the journey of a would-be hero figuring out who he really is… as he ventures through a candy themed racing game. It’s the best animated Disney movie of the year and one of the best video game movies of all time.

The clever conceit of the film is this: Ralph (John C. Reilly) is a bad guy inside Fix It Felix Jr., a game in which he’s been shunned for thirty years. No long happy with his bad guy persona, he busts out of his game to try and become a good guy. While traveling the arcade and interacting with the other games, Ralph puts the entire arcade at risk.

While Wreck-It Ralph has surprises and jokes in every corner of the frame, its one minor flaw is its pacing. The first third of the film is manic. We’re bombarded with information, cameos, humor and incredible visuals culminating in an all-out, action war inside the first person shooter Hero’s Duty. Excitement is everywhere. However, when Ralph meets Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), the cute, quirky glitch in the candy-themed racing game Sugar Rush, the film downshifts. Once the rules of the arcade are set, there’s a lot of interesting story to tell, but character and plot development pales in comparison to the world building at the outset.

Luckily we don’t mind the slower pace that much because this time is spent in Sugar Rush, one of the most exciting and well thought out worlds in recent Disney memory. It’s chock full of clever gags, beautiful settings and a deep history. Once the film has set up its story and begins to reveal a bit of that history, it cranks right back up through its rousing and emotional climax.

John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman do a fine job as their characters, but Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk knock their smaller roles out of the park. The score by Henry Jackman is rousing and catchy (including Skrillex‘s contribution to the underused sci-fi shooter game Hero’s Duty) and Rich Moore‘s direction, combining all these elements with a great respect for video games, makes the film satisfying on every single level. Even if it does slow down a bit in the middle.

Wreck-It Ralph simply entertains in all the ways one would hope. It’s not on the level of the absolute classics of the Disney brand, but it’s close, and destined for sequels, spin-offs and all the bonus levels that brings with it.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10.

Note: If you are a game fan, you’ll want to stay until the VERY end of the credits for a very, very inside joke.

Image Source: First Showing

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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