Wreck-It Ralph: 8/10-
Buckle up for one of my long reviews:
When I first saw the trailer for this movie I thought I can't wait to see this great movie. This is because I thought it was a Pixar movie, and Pixar has been beyond great over the last decade. When I found out that Pixar was not the one's on this movie I downgraded from thinking it was goingn to be great, to expecting a possibly great movie, but most likely a really good one.
And that's exactly what you get with Ralph. This movie was being called the Toy Story of video games. It never reaches that level. It will, possibly unfairly, be compared to TS, but it really isn't the same kind of movie. With a wealth of licenses it opted to instead use them to build this universe using familiar faces. This, I think was an interesting move.
The movie gets a little bit odd at some points. As if it's trying to bust out of the box it puts itself in. Truly this movie could have been stretched into more than one movie. Not plot wise, but Universe building wise. And this does become a bit weird at times when rules of the Universe are introduced like right before they are important to the story.
Now the story is actually good. Not new in any way, in fact it is very familiar. But in the characters themselves. The characters are well built, are well acted by their voices, and are well animated. Here is where the movies shines, specifically in the growth of Ralph himself, and towards the little girl. You have two other characters in Felix Jr. and the Hero's Duty character who are riffs on video game archetypes we are all to familiar with. And it works. It really works. There is a villain that, I can't spoil it, but took me off guard.
There are some powerful moments in this film. Some are quite dark. And I like that, because in a world where danger seems to be nullified you need something that can make threats feel dangerous. Some moments are incredibly touching, and this happens ONLY because we care about these characters.
The movie is all about what makes one what they really are. What makes Ralph bad specifically. Does his job and title define him? (A rather adult theme for a kids movie). And a sub-plot with the little girl works really well to feed into the main story. Point B supports point A. But what this movie never really does, that sets Toy Story apart from just about everything, is talk about our relationship with games.
This is why TS is not a fair comparison. TS is at it's brightest when it is about the relationship a kid can have with his or her toy. One could even argue that it's the foundation of the theme of the movies. Wreck-It never wanders into this territory. It would have been nice to see, but I understand why. It is just using the video game frame to tell an existential type of experience. I heard one critic compare it to Nightmare Before Christmas which... makes sense to me.
But because of it's generic plot, inability to truly connect directly with the nostalgia it's presenting, it can never really get into great territory. Even though it squeezes all the potential it can from it it doesn't have the muster to push it over the top.
Competition is stiff these days for animated movies. But Wreck-It stands among the middle Pixar movies. It will never be confused with TS though, or any of the other standard bearers of it's genre. That shouldn't be counted against it however. See it. Enjoy it. It's as safe a bet for kids as any movie playing, and it's possibly the best animated film this year, but not one of the best of all time.