Could it be a year where the Disney film would turn out to be superior than the Pixar film? After seeing Brave, and being enticed by a promising Wreck it Ralph trailer, it looked like that might just happen. With that potential floating in my mind a whack of friends and I hit up the theatres on Friday. When the credits rolled, did it stand above?
Yes, if just barely. (No pun intended, but quite à propos, really…) Now, to be honest I had a lot of fun watching this film. It was a great fun ride, with plenty of laughter, entertainment, and a touch of delight. Totally worth seeing even just for that. But, alas, that is as far as it went. In the end it just didn’t gel into a fine film with a story that engaged on many levels and carried us along. (Update: see below)
Let’s break it down. Wreck It Ralph has:
- A fun premise, that’s developed enough to create a fun world where you could imagine being there.
- Many, many, many great video game references, from the first bit to the very last easter egg at the end of the film. And it’s not just cameos, it’s the way things move or operate in that created world, the clichés and tropes of video games played so straight they’re almost lampshaded. Good stuff!
- This extends to the games invented for the film (including the game from which the main character prevails). They feel authentic.
- Some good humour, usually playing off these tropes. And a gaggle of really good puns.
- Eye candy! Very bright, colourful and pretty animation. CGI movies are becoming well-polished in technique.
- A potentially poignant and involved story and exploration about isolation, preconceptions, trust, making a difference and what values people hold over others. There is good stuff in here that could be turned, with good storytelling skill, into a great film.
- Some lame humour and unfunny slapstick, extending all the way down to a sequence of things based off the pun duty/doodie. Poop jokes in a video game movie?
- An overbearing fixation on the humour (both the good and bad humour) and spectacle to the point the rest of the movie is, unfortunately, diminished, undeveloped and crafted only to serve the humour and visual action.
- Which leads to a story that is told very ham handedly. Almost appropriate given the titular character perhaps, but… really no, not appropriate. The majority of the character exploration and exposition comes from them speaking those very expositions, rather than them being and acting a certain way such that we can discover and get it. Talking heads do not a story make.
- Couple the fixation with poor storytelling and the potentially poignant and involved story never developed to be either of those. And that is the big unfortunate bit here.
In short, this is a film with good bones and good potential and even good moments/humour, but that never came together powerfully or meaningfully. I rate it a Poor plus. Glad I saw it, had fun, and wish there was more oomph to it.
Update: In the distance of a few years, I’ve grown to love this movie more and more. I’ve watched the ending minutes of the movie a whole bunch of times, and the friendship between Vanellope and Ralph is the key sweet thing here, and there is some realization by Ralph of his place and what life’s all about. Plus Ralph’s willingness to sacrifice himself at the end, tied with a callback to the bad guys pledge from the start of the movie, really nice. The storytelling glitches, the slapstick (the sequence with the laughy taffy feels particularly extraneous) and sweeping Ralph’s mistreatment under the rug are still bugs though. I would rate this movie a Fair now, it’s a solid movie.