Disney was kind enough to send along a Blu-Ray copy of the animated feature Wreck-It Ralph and I’ve been enjoying the story with my children. If you missed it in the theater, the film takes place entirely within a fictional world of video games. No, not like the Tron films, but more benign, earlier, cruder video games from the dawn of the arcade era, games like Pac-Man, Tapper, Q*Bert, Burger Time and Street Fighter.
Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) is trapped in a videogame called Wreck-It Ralph, and he’s tired of all the other characters in the game world having fun, partying, and even sneaking celebrations after the arcade “in the real world” has been shut down. So he rebels, first by trying to be good within the game world, but once a wrecker, always a wrecker, to the amusement of his goody-two-shoes nemesis Fix-It Felix (voice of Jack McBrayer) and when that’s unsuccessful, he walks out of the game and into Game Central Station, the greater universe within which the film takes place.
Ralph ends up in a dramatic scifi-esque rumble in the battle game Hero’s Duty while verbally sparring with tough but foxy Army captain Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch). He wins the game and attains a medal, just to mess everything up again. Next stop: Sugar Rush where he meets the cute Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman), another outcast who has to prove herself by winning a go-cart race, with all the vehicles made out of candy parts. Lots of adventures ensue and the visuals are delightful, really lush animation worlds that have rules and logic all their own.
As you would expect, there are a ton of insider jokes aimed at old-school videogame fans. I didn’t spend a ton of time in the arcade as a child, though I’m the right age to have dropped a lot of quarters into a Centipede or Ms. Pac-Man unit, so I expect I didn’t get all the references. But there’s still plenty to go around and I found Wreck-It Ralph far more fun and entertaining than I expected. It’s great for little ones, visually exciting with very little tension, and it’s the kind of children’s film that us adults can find amusement with too, a la Shrek.
The DVD release includes some really cool stuff including one featurette that might be a must-watch for those of you who weren’t immersed in early videogame culture: The Gamer’s Guide to Wreck-It Ralph. There are also the usual deleted scenes and — perhaps most delightful — the Academy Award Winning animated short Paperman. It’s almost worth the cost of the DVD by itself.
If you’re a fan of old video games or just like smart, engaging animation, I’d suggest you check out Wreck-It Ralph in the “Ultimate Collectors Edition”. It’s pretty darn cool. $33.85 street for the collector’s edition, $27.85 for the regular Blu-Ray and $19.95 for the standard DVD, if you don’t yet have a Blu-Ray player or HDTV.