Being Two-Bit in an 8-Bit World
It's not that I didn't "like" Wreck-it Ralph. I did. I just wasn't moved by it, nor did I care one bit about any of it—not the movie, not the characters—any of it.
Oh, there's a lot to admire: the animation is amazing, albeit to a limited world inside a video game (it can't be too complicated in its design as it's supposed to reflect the limited world-view of a flat 8-bit world refracted in 3-dimensions); the expansions and contractions of those worlds are quite cleverly done—the expansions of those environments being of the commingling of those worlds before the lights turn on in the video arcade, the characters commuting in a Grand Central Station hub to their various scenarios, and the contractions being in the limited animation movements of some of the characters. The voice-acting is fine, headed by John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, and Jack McBrayer (of "30Rock"). The cameos by various amusement game characters are amusing—the Pac-man ghosts, Sonic, Qbert—which gives the whole thing a tinge of Who Framed Roger Rabbit,* Disney Animation has done a great job of it under the tutelage of Pixar's Jon Lasseter.
But, as great as it is, it's hardly inspired, the central conceit being all those video game characters have lives and concerns when no one's looking, which is the idea behind the "Toy Story" franchise. But, instead of that series forming a concept of the toys banding together to get along in The Big Toy-Box, the issues of the segregated video game characters are decidedly trivial and territorial. They inhabit an 8-bit world, but their concerns are decidedly two-bit, as in the story's central story-line. "Wreck-it Ralph" is the villain of the game "Fix-it Felix"—inspired by "Donkey Kong" but not (Mario, remember?) and he's dissatisfied with his life as a villain. He wants to be a hero, but is never given a chance and his intended role keeps him ostracized in the "Felix" community. He's shunned, gets no respect, and isn't even invited to parties. His "villain support group" provides no comfort. So, Ralph decides to expand his horizons (if video games have horizons) and starts visiting other games, like a WOW game with a butch commander in curvy leather (Lynch, of course), then navigates to another game "Sugar Rush" (no doubt coming to a Game Stop near you) where perky princesses race in a candyland world (and one of the racers is voiced by Silverman, not of course).
There are some wonderful things that could be done here as far as the migration of traditional characters in non-traditional environments, but what's here doesn't have a lot of imagination as far as plot, the complications or the resolution. Ultimately, it's a bright, pretty snooze-fest (I felt the need to feed myself quarters to keep from nodding off). But ultimately I just wanted to move on, feeling like I was losing a life—the only one I have!—just waiting for the blessed relief of "Game Over."
Wreck-It Ralph is a Cable-Watcher.
The game-screen of "Fix-It-Felix" and its inspiration "Donkey Kong"©