Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph 3D Review

In the late seventies and early eighties, video game arcades were a top entertainment destination. They were dominated by 8 bit games such as Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. The home console invaded America in the late seventies only to die in the mid-eighties and become resurrected with Nintendo's foray in the late eighties. Now comes the animated film, Wreck-It Ralph, which is a homage to those golden days of 8 bit gaming.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain of a 2D arcade video game called Fix-It Felix Jr. The game is much like Donkey Kong. Ralph is kind of like the Hulk. He goes to the top of a building and he stomps around causing damage to the various floors represented by windows. Felix (Jack McBrayer) is controlled by a human player and he runs around fixing the damage. When Felix gets to the top, the residents pick up Ralph and throw him off the building. Wave over.

When the local arcade is closed, the video game characters come alive. It's similar to Toy Story where the toys come alive when the children are not around. While attending a support group for video game villains, Ralph states his wish to stop being a bad guy. Later, he crashes a party for the thirtieth anniversary of Fix-It Felix Jr. It's a party Ralph realizes that the characters of the game did not invite him to. During the party, Ralph believes he can gain acceptance if he can obtain a medal, something earned by human player in many video games.

Ralph decides to sneak into a game, Hero's Duty to get a medal. This game is a first person shooter in which players are space marines fighting Cy-Bugs. Ralph gets a medal and escapes in a ship but there's a Cy-Bug aboard. He crashes the ship into another arcade game called Sugar Rush, a kart racing game. There he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a nine year old girl and has the handicap of being a computer glitch. Vanellope takes Ralph's medal and uses it to enter a race. Ralph must now find a way to get the medal back. Meanwhile, there's a threat from the Cy-Bug.

The voice acting in Wreck-It Ralph works. John C. Reilly displays his yearning to be accepted among his video game cast. Jack McBrayer is perfectly cast as a goody two shoes and naive character. Jane Lynch does a good job as a tough Marine from Hero's Duty. And the lovely Sarah Silverman does a cute nine year old girl. She leaves her usual sarcastic wit at home.

Director Rich Moore does a competent job but with Wreck-It Ralph but it has major problems. A good movie starts with a good screenplay. Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston's screenplay is confusing. This video game world has its own rules and even if you are versed in video games, you don't know what they are. The screenplay throws out important lines regarding rules without further exposition the same way Pac-Man eats a dot. Doze off for a second and you will be lost. For example, bugs in the real world are attracted to light but why are the Cy-Bugs so excited about it in the video game world? Children and adults will be lost if they don't pay attention.

Then there are problems with the art direction. I'm talking about the world of Sugar Rush. It's an overdose of red, white and pink. Mix in Daliesque type structures and you have a film that looks like it was made by guys who were smoking the whacky weed. The result is that you will get an ice cream brain freeze headache.

If you're thinking about going to the 3D version of Wreck-It Ralph, forget it. The movie follows the snob's version of 3D. Don't emphasize it. The result? There were many times that I questioned whether the movie was in 3D. There's no depth, no pop. Textures don't stand out. Compare this version of 3D animation to How to Train Your Dragon. (2010) Dragon didn't treat 3D like it didn't exist. That's why it's a much better 3D film.

I wonder who this movie is aimed at. The world of video games is dominated by the console, XBOX, Playstation and WII. While I welcome a valentine to the eighties arcade, it's a world that is gone. The arcade deserves a better movie than this confusing mess. The grade is B-.

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