Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Wreck-It Ralph

Time for another edition of Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly viewing of one of the many, many, many DVDs clogging my shelves and blogging about.   This time out, we get to Disney's animated epic of 2012, Wreck-It Ralph.  This entry originally appears in my notes at March 16, 2013. 

Well, here it is, my first Fishing in the Discount Bin from my new place in Westlock. Yeah, I did Pan-Am last week, but the place is starting to feel more like home. The cable guy came and hooked me up, so I can watch TV again. I've hung some more pictures on the wall. Now as soon as Mom comes through with those curtains, and the insurance company and the body shop finally get together to fix that gaping hole in the front of my car from when I hit that deer, the new normal can begin!

And what better way to start ushering in the new normal than by watching movies? I christened my new address and new mailbox with an Amazon.ca purchase, including Disney's animated film from the fall Wreck-It Ralph.

As I said in my original review from when I saw it in the theatre, I originally had no intention to see Wreck-It Ralph. Most of the ad campaign was making it look like Video Game Nostalgia: The Movie, and since I was never really that much of a gamer, I really don't get misty-eyed for the Golden Age of Video Games. But, a slew of positive reviews online, couple with the desire to just get out and see a movie, finally won me over. And when walked out of the theatre, I was really glad I did. The video game nostalgia didn't dominate...it just kind of hovers in the background, helping to fill out this world that was created. Instead, what we got, was some great characters and a really good story...if just a little cliched.

So the film all takes place in an arcade. After hours, all the video game sprites come to life, can hop from game to game, and hang out with each other. Our hero is Wreck-It Ralph, the villain of a game called Fix-It Felix Jr. The game is celebrating 30 years in the arcade, and Ralph is feeling a little down. Rather than be celebrated and appreciated for the role he plays in the game, he's still forced to live on the fringes, an object of fear and scorn. In fact, Ralph isn't the only one who feels this way, as the movie opens in a support group for video game villains, all dealing with similar problems.

After the support group, Ralph returns to his game, to see that the other citizens of his game are throwing a big party to celebrate their 30th, and he wasn't invited. This is kind of the last straw for Ralph, so he crashes the party. Needless to say, he has a little trouble verbalizing his anger and frustrations, and things go badly. One of the game's citizens says that if Ralph can ever win a medal, just like the heroes in games do, then Ralph will gladly be welcomed in. And so, Ralph embarks on his quest to win a medal, leading many to fear that he's "gone Turbo."

Ralph's quest eventually leads him to the game Hero's Duty, a tough-as-nails Halo-style first person shooter, with an equally tough-as-nails main character, Sgt. Calhoun. I love the gag when one of the other soldiers explains that she was programmed to have the most tragic backstory ever..."the only day she didn't do a perimeter sweep...was her wedding day." And we're treated to a flashback where she's standing at the altar, and one of Hero's Duty's villainous Cy-Bugs crashes through the stained-glass window and devours her groom just as she says "I do." Despite his inexperience in the game, and making a general mess of things, Ralph manages to get his medal. But, his exit is less than graceful, and he accidentally rockets off in a shuttle, taking a Cy-Bug with him. Calhoun and Felix (the hero of Ralph's game), track Ralph and the Cy-Bug to Sugar Rush, a kart racer with a candy theme. Calhoun explains that Cy-Bugs were programmed to behave like viruses, so essentially, a computer virus that could destroy Sugar Rush and the entire arcade has just been unleashed. And, since Felix's role in his game is to fix Ralph's messes, Felix resolves to help Calhoun. So the two venture into Sugar Rush to find Ralph and destroy the Cy-Bug.

I should mention that things are dire, too, for Felix and the other residents of Fix-It Felix Jr. With Ralph gone, the arcade owners have declared the game broken, and unless Ralph is found, the game will be unplugged, essentially cyber-killing all the residents.

Meanwhile, Ralph has run into a problem in Sugar Rush. His medal was swiped by one of the game's characters, Vanellope Von Schweetz, who uses it to buy her way into the daily race. If the wins the race, she'll finally be a character in the game when the arcade opens the next day. But, all of the other citizens of Sugar Rush are dead set against this. For you see, Vanellope is a glitch. She wasn't supposed to be part of the game. And this leads her to be all jittery and kind of jump around at random. She's frequently bullied for this, and when Ralph sees all the other racers picking on Vanellope, making fun of her disability, and smashing up her car, Ralph feels compelled to get in there and break it up. The two get to talking, and they make a deal: if Ralph helps Vanellope win the race, Vanellope will retrieve Ralph's medal from her winnings and give it back to him. An alliance is formed.

Speaking of alliances, we catch up with Calhoun and Felix as they search through Sugar Rush. When Felix shares that he fears Ralph has "gone Turbo," Calhoun is unfamiliar with this, as she's a new game, so Felix gets to deliver some necessary exposition. Once upon a time, a long time ago in the arcade, there was a very popular racing game called Turbo Time and Turbo was its main character. When a new racing game was brought into the arcade, Turbo grew jealous, so he left his game and tried to take over the new one. Both games were declared broken and unplugged. And while this goes on, as they search through this Candy Land, Calhoun and Felix begin to fall in love. And it is hilarious. Here she is, full of all the insults that a drill seargent can get away with in a G-rated Disney film, and there's Felix, who's all full of "Aw, shucks," and "Golly gee whillikers." Sadly, though, the course to true love is rocky, as Felix uses a term of endearment that Calhoun's finance always used, triggering some PTSD in Calhoun, leading the two to go their separate ways.

Now, back to Ralph and Vanellope. After they break into the factory and build a new racer for Vanellope, they go back to her hideout, and start getting to know each other a little better. When Ralph sees that Vanellope lives in similar conditions to his...out on the fringes, in the trash heap, and pretty much unloved by the rest of her game...well, Ralph realizes that she's going through the same thing he is, and that competing in the race would be pretty much the same to her as him getting his medal. So, now he assist Vanellope wholeheartedly, building a racetrack so she can practice driving. And the two really start to form a deep friendship. And Ralph's really starting to feel pretty good. But then Ralph is tracked down by King Candy, the ruler of Sugar Rush. King Candy was able to go into the game's source code and find Ralph's medal. King Candy explains that the real reason why Vanellope is forbidden from racing is that, if the players ever saw her glitch, the game might be declared broken and get unplugged. And that would be even worse for Vanellope, because as a glitch, she cannot leave the game. So she wouldn't be able to escape to the safety of another game, and would instead die when the game is unplugged. So she's forbidden to race because it's the only thing keeping her alive. King Candy gives Ralph his medal back and tells Ralph that if he wants to be a hero...well, heroes have to make the hard decisions.

Ralph ponders this, and when Vanellope meets back up with him, Ralph figures he has to do what's right in order to save Vanellope. So, living up to his name, he smashes Vanellope's car to bits so she can't race. Now, I'll never forget seeing this in the theatre. I was genuinely heartbroken at this scene...on the verge of tears. As Ralph is feeling really low after what he's done, and Vanellope looks at him with tears in her eyes and says "You really are a bad guy," well, that was a tough scene.

Alone and rejected, Ralph returns to Fix It Felix Jr, and runs into one of the citizens. The citizen explains that, with both Ralph and Felix gone, the game is due to be unplugged when the arcade opens the next day, so everyone else has fled. The citizen then says that, since Ralph got his medal, he can spend his final night in the community that he longed to be part of...all be it by himself. Of course, Ralph is feeling very upset at this. And as he looks up, out the window (screen) into the real world and the arcade he sees something that gets his brain working.

Ralph rushes back to Sugar Rush and interrogates King Candy's crony. Ralph asks the simple question: if Vanellope is a glitch and not supposed to be a part of the game, then why is her picture painted on the side of the game's cabinet? The crony explains that Vanellope became a glitch when King Candy got into the game's source code and attempted to delete her. As for her true role in the game, no one, not even the crony knows, because King Candy locked away everyone's memories of Vanellope. But the crony admits the real reason why Vanellope is forbidden from racing is, if she crosses the finish line, the game will reset and everything will be restored.

Ralph then sets out to set things right. He breaks into King Candy's castle. First thing he does is bust Felix out of prison, and apologize for ruining their game. Then, they break out Vanellope, and Ralph and her reconcile. With Felix's help, they get her car all fixed, and they make it to the race just in time!

Vanellope is kicking ass in the race, when Calhoun appears and reveals the results of her bug hunt. The Cy-Bug has multiplied into a massive army, and Sugar Rush is toast. At this announcement, the Cy-Bugs appear and start destroying everything. But that's not all. Back in the race, things come down to just Vanellope and King Candy, and when Vanellope glitches, King Candy's facade is shattered and his true identity is revealed...he's Turbo, who has survived in the arcade after all these years, and took over Sugar Rush! As Turbo is about to deliver the deathblow and delete Vanellope forever, she closes her eyes, focuses on her glitch, and glitches to safety. That's right, she was able to seize control of her glitch and give herself the superpower of short-range teleportation! Meanwhile, King Candy is devoured by a Cy-Bug.

Just as Vanellope is about to cross the finish line, the Cy-Bugs devour it. Calhoun, Felix, and Ralph have been leading the evacuation of Sugar Rush, and our four heroes are the only ones who remain. They try to get to safety, but King Candy was right. As a glitch, Vanellope can't leave the game. So they have to leave her behind to die. But Ralph won't let it happen. Calhoun explains that, in Hero's Duty, at the end of each game, all the Cy-Bugs are eradicated by a beacon...essentially a giant bug zapper that turns on. Ralph knows of something in Sugar Rush that might do the same, and he runs off.

Did I mention that Vanellope and Ralph's hideout in Sugar Rush was at the base of a Mentos and Diet Coke volcano? Ralph figures it out: smash all the Mentos down into the Diet Coke, and the giant eruption will work as beacon. But, just as Ralph is about to deliver that final punch to send all the Mentos down into the Diet Coke lava, Turbo once again reappears! Turns out he merged with that Cy-Bug instead of being devoured by it, and now, as the ultimate virus, he's going to take over every game in the arcade! So he and Ralph have their epic final battle, which ends with Ralph deciding to make the ultimate sacrifice, and delivering that final punch to the Mentos. Heartbreaking scene #2: as Ralph plummets to his death, he whispers the prayer from that villain's support group at the start of the film: "Just because I'm a bad guy, doesn't mean I'm a bad guy."

But Vanellope's not going to see her new best friend go down. She hops in her car, and using her new superpower, manages to teleport Ralph to safety just in time. The volcano erupts, and all the Cy-Bugs are drawn to it and their eradication...even King Candy, who can't resist the Cy-Bug part of his new nature.

With Sugar Rush saved, Felix fixes the finish line, and Vanellope is allowed to cross it. The game resets, and Vanellope is revealed to be a princess, because Disney. Princess Vanellope is revealed to be the true ruler of the game, and this leads to another of my favourite gags in the film, as Vanellope gets revenge on her bullies.

Vanellope>> My first decree as your ruler is that everyone who was mean to me...shall be executed!

Calhoun>> Well...this place just got interesting.

But Vanellope quickly chooses to reject her princess gown, deciding to remain her superpowered self. Ralph and Felix make it back to Fix It Felix Jr just in time, and the game is declared working again.

Time for the happily ever after. Ralph and Felix build some low-income housing in Fix It Felix Jr so all the other game characters who escaped their games being unplugged have a place to live. Felix and Calhoun get married. The residents of Fix It Felix Jr finally accept Ralph into their community and show their appreciation for him. But Ralph says that the best part of his day is when he's able to look out the screen and across the arcade to Sugar Rush and catch a glimpse of Vanellope, "because if that one little girl can like me, then I must not be a bad guy after all."

The review that finally convinced me to see this in the theatre was one that said, "2012 was a weird year. It feels like Disney made the Pixar movie, and Pixar made the Disney movie." And I so get that, now. Wreck-It Ralph just has a lot more heart and soul to it than Brave did. I mean, there were three moments in Wreck-It Ralph that gave me ALL THE FEELINGS. The two heartbreaking moments above, and that end gives me the warm and fuzzies. But Brave...meh.

That's just my hallmark of a good animated film...well, a good film period. If you can just give me butterflies in my stomach, a little quiver in my lip...just get me going. Then I love it. And Wreck-It Ralph is such a film.

The voice acting is really good. John C. Reilly, a supporting player in many a Will Ferrell comedy, is Ralph, and he's stellar as the lead. Vanellope is voiced by comedian Sarah Silverman, and while some of Vanellope's quips do get a little adult at times (she has lots of fun with the pun of "Duty" and "Doody"), there's still a while lotta charm to the character. Jane Lynch voices Calhoun, and it's not too much of a stretch from that bitchy cheerleading coach she plays on Glee. Same with Jack McBrayer, who voices Felix, as it's not much for a stretch from Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock.

Great music in the film, too. I really want to get the soundtrack for this. I don't know why, but that bouncy Owl City theme song is just one of those tunes that doesn't get out of my head.

And Sugar Rush...probably one of my biggest complaints.  I mean, all the fuss was made about the video game character cameos.  But with Sugar Rush taking place in a candyland...well, it's product placement-eriffic, as pretty much every candy is a name brand.  That's the one thing that kind of took me out of the movie from time to time. 

But all in all, I just really loved this movie.  I honestly thought it was going to win the Best Animated Film Oscar, but hey, Pixar is still an Oscar darling, so no surprise that it went to Brave.  All I can say is do what I did when I went into the theatre back in November...give it a chance.  You'll be surprised. 

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