For family fun last Saturday night, we decided to watch the animated Disney movie Wreck It Ralph. We all love video games, and the premise – of a downtrodden villain growing weary of doing villainous things, and wanting more – seemed appealing.
My kids mostly play their video games online on their PC, or on their consoles, or on their smart phones or ipods. When I was a kid, if we wanted to play — we grabbed our quarters and cold hard cash, met up with friends and headed to the local arcade. To spend hours dropping quarters into machines.
But, what really goes on INSIDE those arcade video games?
And thus begins the story, of an 8-bit villain, wanting to be a hero…
Plot summary: *** WARNING: spoilers ahead ***
It’s the 30th anniversary for Fix It Felix, Jr. – the old school, 8-bit video game where Wreck It Ralph works. He’s the bad guy; Felix is the hero – the good guy. In the game, there’s the exterior of an apartment building. Ralph wrecks parts of the building with his huge fists; Felix fixes it all with his magic hammer. Ralph gets thrown off the top of the building into the mud; Felix gets a gold medal and the apartment folk give him pies.
Just like Toy Story – where toys are really alive, and only act like they are lifeless when people are around – at the end of every day, when the arcade closes and the people leave, the video game characters come “alive”. Traveling through the electrical plugs and outlets, they gather and hang out at Game Central Station (like “Grand Central Station” – get it?) or travel to other games.
Ralph takes part in a Bad Guy support group meeting, and it’s a riot to see all the bad guys that we are familiar with : Robotnik/Dr. Eggman (Sonic), Bowser (Super Mario Bros), etc. At the meeting, Ralph expresses frustration with the tough life of being the Bad Guy. A thankless job, miserable, hated.
His peers are concerned – “you’re not going Turbo?” they ask him repeatedly. Turbo is a character that was in TurboTime, an old racing game. When a new racing game came, no one played Turbo’s game anymore. Fed up, and bored, Turbo left his game and went to the new game. As a result, both games ended up ”Out Of Order” and were unplugged — shut down. “Don’t mess with the code”, they tell him. Ralph is told to accept his role, and his fate — his part in the game.
At the end of every day, Ralph heads to his home, the stump in the dump, while Felix lives in the penthouse of the apartment building. Ralph is hanging out in his lonely home, sleeping on bricks, when he notices fireworks and a huge party going on in the penthouse. Ralph realizes – they are partying without him, and heads up to visit the penthouse.
The apartment folks are terrified, shocked, and annoyed that Ralph – the Bad Guy – has the nerve to approach and ask to party with them. Felix lets Ralph into the party, and it doesn’t go well. Ralph inadvertently wrecks the party. Long story short, Ralph is told — if he can get a medal, they will let him join the group, and party in the penthouse.
Ralph, determined, heads out to acquire a medal.
But, Bad Guys don’t get medals.
Ralph ends up in a Halo-esque FPS game called Hero’s Duty, let by a beautiful, tough-talking woman, Sergeant Calhoun. The task is to kill the CyBugs, climb the wall, then get the Hero medal.
The CyBugs are vicious, deadly, in massive quantities, and attacking everywhere. They can only be stopped by shooting them with a laser rifle, or by the massive beacon of blue-ish light that generates when the game ends (looking remarkably similar to a tall bug zapper…).
Ralph ends up ditching his Halo suit, climbing the tower, and grabbing the medal. In the process, he ends up activating a lot of CyBug eggs, and ends up causing mayhem. Battling with a baby CyBug, Ralph falls inside an escape pod (a small spaceship), and activates it, which then goes out of control. The escape ship rockets out of the Hero’s Duty game, and purely by luck, ends up entering and crash landing in a different game – Sugar Rush. Sugar Rush is a kart racing game in a land of confections – peppermint stick trees, chocolate lakes. A treat to the eyes.
Ralph’s medal lands on the top of a tree, while the CyBug ends up falling in a gooey green candy pond.
Ralph goes to get his medal, but ends up competing for it with a tiny, cute, and smart-talking girl. She takes the medal, and now he has to find her and get it back.
It turns out the girl, Vanellope , needs the medal (or a gold coin) to pay to enter a race. Vanellope is a “glitch” and is unstable. She is not allowed to race, yet it is her dream – she is driven to compete in a race.
Now, the medal has gone, as payment, and Ralph has to wait until after the race, when she will pay him back and return the medal.
The other girl avatars/racers, and King Candy don’t want her to race. The King is adamant – “She must not be allowed to race!” The girls go after Vanellope and wreck her homemade car. Ralph comes to her defense, and then helps her break into the car making bakery. Together they make her a new, real race car.
Now, Vanellope is officially entered in the race, and has a car to race. But, turns out she doesn’t even know how to drive! Another hurdle to overcome. But Ralph needs that medal, and the respect that comes with it, so he builds her a track and trains her.
In the meantime, Calhoun, the woman commander from Halo is on the trail of the escaped CyBug. Now that the bug has left the confines of its original game, it will flourish out of control, replicate, lay eggs, and consume and destroy Sugar Rush. Eventually, it will spread, and contaminate the entire arcade. Leading to the end of the world! (Well, arcade, anyways…)
Fix It Felix is also out of his game, searching for Ralph. Without Ralph, nothing gets wrecked and so Felix has nothing to fix. With Ralph missing, the game has been deemed “Broken” and is now marked “Out of Order”. When the repairman comes to look at the game, and confirms it’s broken, it will be unplugged, and all the in-game characters in Fix It Felix, Jr will be homeless.
Ralph’s selfish attempt to better his own life has now, unintentionally, put not only Fix It Felix, Jr and Sugar Rush in danger, but the entire arcade will be destroyed by the self replicating, virus-like CyBugs.
Making things more complicated – if a character dies within their own game, they’ll be revived; if they die in another game, they will not be revived – they will really die. Cease to exist.
Can Ralph make things right? Can he save the day?
Will Ralph get his medal back? What will happen? Will all his dreams come true?
Or will things not turn out the way he expects?
And why is King Candy so bent on preventing Vanellope from racing?
I’m not going to tell you the ending here. But I will tell you there is a happy ending, along with a surprisingly clever plot twist.
About the movie:
Wreck It Ralph was released in November 2012, produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Executive producer is John Lasseter. Directed by Rich Moore, featuring the voices of John C. Reilly (Ralph), Sarah Silverman (Vanellope ), Jack McBrayer (Felix), and Jane Lynch (Calhoun).
Music – the film’s score was composed by Henry Jackman, and the soundtrack includes original songs by Owl City, Skrillex , and AKB48, along with “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang, and “Shut Up and Drive” by Rihanna.
The movie references to all sorts of video games – old and new – Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog, Altered Beast, PacMan, Q*bert, Street Fighter, Paperboy, Pong, Dig Dug, Qix, Frogger, BurgerTime, and more.
Rated PG, 108 minutes. Violence – shooting of bugs with laser rifles, and Ralph smashes Vanellope’s car (believing, mistakenly, that he is doing it to save her).
Fun, witty, light, happy. entertaining, and enjoyable. A perfect movie to see with your kids. Exciting, with a sad moment or two, and a surprisingly clever plot twist, Wreck It Ralph is a treat for all ages, worth the time it takes to watch the movie. Leaves you satisfied at the end, where it nicely wraps up with a happy ending.
Interesting trivia / fact:
“To research the Sugar Rush segment of the film, the visual development group traveled to trade fair ISM Cologne, a See’s Candy factory, and other manufacturing facilities. The group also brought in food photographers, to demonstrate techniques to make food appear appealing.”
There’s a lot of good questions that come up, worth discussing with your kids:
What’s a Good Guy to do, with out his Bad Guy? Can a character even be a protagonist, without an antagonist?
What makes someone a “hero”? Is Ralph a hero because he has a medal?
Is it ok to risk someone else’s livelihood to go after your own dream?
Although we see Sonic, Bowser and other familiar video game characters, it would have been nice for them to play a bigger role. And where is Mario? And Luigi? Donkey Kong? According to Wikipedia, and Game Informer:
“Nintendo had asked that the producers try to devise a scene that would be similarly appropriate for Mario for his inclusion in the film. Despite knowing they would be able to use the character, the producers could not find an appropriate scene that would let Mario be a significant character without taking away the spotlight from the main story, and opted to not include the character.”
And the ending romance seems sweet, but a bit forced.
Our favorite moments:
You had me at — Cola Mountain, with Mentos stalactites. (Hint: BOOM!)
The Skrillex character cameo at Felix’s party.
Inside Tapper’s, when the Hero’s Duty guy faints at the sight of a REAL bug on Ralph’s shoulder, and Ralph then steals his Halo suit / body armor.
Oh, and be sure to watch the ending credits, with 8 bit animation – we all agreed they were one of the best parts of the movie!