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A Second Look: Wreck-It Ralph
In 2012, Rich Moore released Wreck-It Ralph, which starred John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Joe Lo Truglio, Ed O’Neill, Dennis Haysbert, Adam Corolla, Horatio Sanz and Moore. The film grossed $471.2 million at the box office and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Annie Awards for Best Animated Effects in an Animated Production, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production, and Editorial in an Animated Feature Production, the Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature, the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The film won the Annie Awards for Best Animated Feature, Directing in an Animated Feature Production, Music in an Animated Feature Production, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production, and Writing in an Animated Feature Production.
Fed up with the disrespect that comes with being the villain in a video game for 30 years, Ralph sees an opportunity to become a hero by jumping into the game Hero’s Duty and winning a medal. In doing so, he unleashes a virus into the games in the arcade in which he lives. Now, with the help of a glitch named Vanellope Von Schweetz, and the hero of his game, Felix, and the Commander Calhoun from Hero’s Duty, he must fix the problems he’s created while uncovering a long hidden conspiracy.
A great film placed right in the middle of what is currently being considered as Disney’s second renaissance, Wreck-it Ralph is an interesting deconstruction and reconstruction of video games and the characters found within. At the start, it deconstructs what it means to be a character and villain in a game by showing that the bad guys within the games are actually pretty decent people and only doing the job, one that nobody really wants to begin with, because they have to. However, it then reconstructs modern day video games with a character from a classic game in-universe undergoing a plot that many games these days are presenting players: one that involves traveling different worlds, battling conspiracies and making difficult moral choices with a battle between the hero and an evil mastermind at the end that involves making a heroic sacrifice. It does very well in its attempts at the deconstruction and reconstruction as well, giving all the villains present in the group personalities and feelings as well as crafting a great story for Ralph to go through.
The way the film’s true villain is uncovered is great as well, with many different characters alluding to Ralph “going turbo” when he expresses his desire to not be a bad guy anymore as well as when he’s found out to be game jumping. These are all great setups for when Felix explains to Calhoun what the expression means and goes into the story of how Turbo got jealous of the attention another game was getting, jumped into it and caused both his and the other game to be thrown out. All of it casts a shadow that makes it seem like Ralph is unwittingly following in Turbo’s footsteps only for it to turn out that Turbo has been lurking in the arcade for much longer than anyone ever thought with him turning out to have hidden himself in plain sight.
Really though, Turbo and Ralph are great foils of each other, the latter being a notable refelection of the former's feelings of dissatisfaction and jealousy. In Ralph’s case, he leaves his game to get recognition as a hero because he’s tired of being untrusted and disliked simply for being the game’s designated villain and in Turbo’s case it’s because of the aforementioned jealousy. The thing is though, Ralph has a good heart and actually cares about other people and makes up for his own mistakes. On the other hand, Turbo only cares about himself and is perfectly willing to kill and ruin lives in order to get what he wants.
In all of this, the film does have plenty of humorous moments to offset the action, one of which happens to be the Bad Guys Anonymous meeting in the beginning. It’s a bunch of well-known video game villains, of which Clyde is the coordinator, sitting around and being friendly with each other. Even then, it’s the zombie who offers the most profound advice telling Ralph that he must love himself. There’s also the conversation Ralph has with the Surge Protector who, in response to Ralph stating he hates the guy, says he gets it a lot without looking up. A great moment that’s even a reference to another film is during a cut to King Candy’s guards who are chanting “Oreo” in the same ominous manner as the guards serving the Wicked Witch of the West.
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