Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

Charm goes a long, long way.

I won't recap the details of the plot; these are video game characters, across different genres, and some of them love their jobs and some of them are strivers.  Wreck-It Ralph, the character, is played by John C. Reilly in his usual affable lunkhead persona, and the perfection of his casting is only matched by the perfection of the casting of the other three leads, Fix-it Felix (Jack McBrayer), Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and especially Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), an actress I am often very negative towards but who seems to have found the perfect role here as a 9 year old girl with the sort of potty mouth that 9 year olds find extremely transgressive.  Ralph sets the plot in motion, but there are so many narrative threads running through the film that it'd be a lost cause to try to diagram them all out.  Mostly the film is about in-jokes, and punnery, and about as much breezy charm as has ever been put on screen.  My favorite of the film's gags is one that happens pretty early on: Ralph is at a support group meeting for video game villains (among the notable names in attendance are Zangief and M. Bison, Bowser, and the orange ghost from Pac-Man), which is animated in the usual Pixar-lite style, and as the meeting breaks up the film cuts to a shot of the Pac-Man cabinet, where the sprites of the characters in attendance are exiting the center room.

The amount of goodwill that had been built up by this movie through about its first 2/3rds is almost impossible to measure, so a third-act twist revealing that one of our heroes was a Harry Potter type character all along (destined for greatness, rather than an accidental hero) that I thought really sucked the energy out of the film had to work hard at chipping away at that mountain of charm.  There is a shot at the end of one of our heroes in, let's say, an incongruous outfit, and I admit that I buried my head in my hands even though the film works hard to lampshade it.  It never stopped being charming, but it did stop being about what it should have been about - for the first 2/3rds, this was not just a charming movie but one about a main character with a serious disability - the film ultimately wanted to have it both ways for its young audiences, and that was an unfortunate choice, but not a fatal one.  B+

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