Just who do the people at Disney think they are making a move about videogames – a movie peppered with references to games that have had little to do with Disney over the last thirty years? True, audiences can’t get enough of ‘Toy Story’, but Pixar is MIA for this one. Is there any hope for ‘Wreck-It Ralph’?
I was ready to dislike ‘Wreck-It Ralph’. I’m not a Pixar fan for the most part, and that studio’s success has rippled through all other family-friendly animated features. The short that Disney showed just before ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ did little to allay my concerns.
Someone once told me that, despite how little the Michael Bay movies do in terms of recapturing what was great about that license, simply by reusing character names, the ‘Transformers’ flicks are full of fun references. This logic makes me ill. Yes, having that thing in the movie that was called “Jazz” (at least before it was mercifully put down) makes me recall how cool the character has been elsewhere, but not in a good way. Tacit fan service comes off as patronizing, and if that’s the only thing that the adaptation has going for it, thanks but no thanks.
‘Wreck-It Ralph’ tackles more than a single license. Videogames are their own storytelling medium, and since they’re interactive, players become part of the story, make their own stories, etc. The last thing I’m interested in is hearing that they’re not art, or that they’re what kids do instead of being in shape or becoming Nobel Laureates.
Getting back to the pre-‘Wreck-It Ralph’ short, it was enjoyable, but its sentimentality is reminiscent of ‘Up’. It’s all fun and games until you learn that the dogs are people-eaters. Happily, of all of the conclusions that could be drawn from watching ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, the worst that occurred to me was, “Uh-oh, I’m sensing some pod-racing is about to occur.” The superb talent and comedic timing came through and overpowered some lesser gripes that I might have.
There has been a lot of hype and many stories about the movie’s production, about how the creators actually play games, about which companies vied for inclusion and which characters were notably absent. In many ways, each piece contains something akin to a “love letter to videogames.” I won’t go that far. For me, it was more like a love letter to nostalgia, and a fun fantasy world of arcade games wrapped up in a kid’s movie. I’d like to thank Disney for producing a movie that I was surprised to enjoy and that isn’t super preachy about any one thing.