I'm Bad, And That's Good: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

I am quite uncertain about the overarching message relating to Wreck-It Ralph, while it appears to be a scathing critique of capitalist based endeavors, it also does little to clearly condemn the notion of conformity as the only means to assure safety and order.  What is excellent about the film, regardless of a convoluted moral message, is its sheer degree of watchability, particularly visually.  A diehard video game fan will likely react to this film in one of two ways.  Either they will dismiss the very minimal use of famous video game iconography due to licensing issues and thus find it to be an all around failure in concerns to the notion of a game about games (I assure you it is not quite that meta).  The other reaction to the film will be one that embraces the minimal use of video game iconography in favor of a visual style that commits to some of the movements and works of gaming, both in regards to contemporary high definition game, as well as in relation to the pixelated simplicity of games from eras far gone.  I am certainly within the latter camp, in that I found its visual offering quite easy to embrace and was actually worried that the film would spend far too much time clinging to video game references, yet under the direction of Rich Moore, whose involvement with work like Futurama clearly shows through, as the references, like those in the show about a nineties guy living in the future, serves as a means to an end.  Every use of Q*Bert or Pac-Man exist as a means to compile a narrative and the film, instead creates its own set of excellent fictional characters to fill the world, in fact, the one classic character who seems to get more screen time than any other appears to be Zangeif of Street Fighter fame and to be honest, in that situation doesn't everybody win?  Wreck-It Ralph is an absolutely funny film, perfectly navigating the line between children and adult humor, often coexisting within the same scenes and it does not take a detailed understanding of the history of video games to really appreciate this film, although the film certainly provides some moments of reference that are so very obscure that even the most versed of fan boys will find themselves jogging their memory of the classics.

Wreck-It Ralph focuses on the title character of Ralph (John C. Reilly) a bad guy in the world of arcade games, something he is coming to despise that it means he must live in the world of bad guy land, or in his case in a brick dump right outside of his game space.  The game he exists within is occupied by the hero Fix It Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer) for which the game shares the same name, and Felix, Jr. is the heralded champion of their space, considering that it is often he who saves the penthouse that Ralph destroys.  Even though the space clearly designates between good and evil, Ralph often travels outside of his game to the game center to hang out with fellow bad guys in Bad-Anon meetings, where he attempts to come to grips with his badness.  Yet, Ralph simply wants to obtain a gold medal and be appreciated and when he is not acknowledged on the thirtieth anniversary of the game he ends up "going Turbo" a phrase designated for a former racing game character who became jealous of the success of another game, leading to his moving to that game and subsequently destroying its space.  Ralph's movement through the other game spaces is in no way malicious and he simply desires to obtain an icon of success, actually winning a gold medal in the game Hero's Duty, much to the frustration of its lead character Calhoun (Jane Lynch).  Yet during his existence in the space of this game, he brings along a bug that transfers to his next game space Sugar Rush threatening to infiltrate the sugar pop world and destroy its very core, of course Ralph is oblivious to this all despite being chased by both Calhoun and Felix, Jr. at this point.  During his movement through Sugar Rush he meets up with Penelope (Sarah Silverman) a wily and bratty girl who desires to be a racer in the world, despite being a glitch within the game, something that causes her to be a point of condemnation within the world, particularly in the eyes of world's leader King Candy (Alan Tudyk).  From here on the narrative centers on both Ralph and Penelope as they push towards proving that they are certainly more than their coded identities, something that takes a considerable amount of drive and determination, as well as some confrontation with the very fabrication of the game spaces in which they exist, something they realize has been tampered with far before their arrival.  Needless to say things are returned to order, Ralph embraces his identity as a bad guy, while Penelope learns to adapt her glitch to the game.   For extra kicks, Calhoun and Felix, Jr. even get married.

One can certainly create a quarrel over the positive or negative themes spouted within this film, after all it is a Disney offering and, unlike the previously reviewed Frankenweenie, it is not afforded the artistic reigns of a Tim Burton and must adhere to certain ideologies.  With that being said, I would argue that Wreck-It Ralph is easily the most scathing critique of blind capitalist ambition since Wall-E, while also being extremely concerned with adhering to conformity, something more in line with the Disney films of yore.  I will say this about Wreck-It Ralph, overlooking the other two themes, I would instead focus on its concern for the nature of relevance and staying fresh as it relates to society.  In fact, it is as much a narrative about the woes of growing old as it is anything else.  Much of Ralph's woes come from him not receive appreciation for his job, but that could certainly double as regret for being stuck in the same place for way longer than he planed, a metaphor for the dead end job mentality perhaps, or take Felix, Jr. whose name suggests his own existence within a lineage, something that he, at first, does not outright reject, but upon his meeting of Calhoun he certainly changes his tune ever so slightly.  Even Calhoun has her issues, especially considering that she has lost her fiancé in the past to the creatures of a game which she can never leave.  Even the arcade itself plays into this metaphor (perhaps this film is more meta than I suggested) in that the aging Mr. Litwak (Ed O'Neil) clearly moves with a blasé attitude through is flailing arcade, knowing it is only a matter of time before it is financially illogical to stay open, considering that attendance has dwindled, which is quite a true statement if anybody has seen an arcade as of late, let alone one in operation.  The narrative then rests almost entirely in Penelope who desires nothing more than to exist in the moment and race, she is not only oblivious to the woes of aging or staying important, but almost transcends them, this helps contextualize her glitching as an act of almost nirvana in that she is clearly able to detach herself from the constraints of temporal and spatial existence for her benefit, and, in the end, the benefit of the entirety of the arcade.  The narrative cleverly embraces an idea of continued relevance through incorporation of the past into the present, an acknowledgement of the retro is a term the film uses.  It is clever considering that Disney created this film and at this point they seem to own everything for every persons' childhood (the metaness of this film only grows).

Key Scene:  The Bad-Anon meetings are quite hilarious and only one of the many genuine laughs within the film.

This is still in theaters and certainly benefits from being on the big screen, I suggest taking along somebody of a varied age as it helps to pick up on many of the multiple facets to this complex film, also the animated short at the beginning is quite beautiful.

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