Saturday, November 24, 2012

The FTT Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Four kinds of smart
John Lasseter is the head of Pixar, and probably the biggest reason why they were acquired by Disney; the biggest reason why he did the deal, it seems, is to green light more stuff that he likes. The most immediate benefit of this was some spectacular Japanese animation (Hayao Miyazaki, with "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle" are the wins), and now, there's a new American piece out that's genuinely great. It's "Wreck-It Ralph."

Beyond an excellent voice cast, exceptional animation and engaging plotline, what WIR hs going for it is that most amazing of elements: an original premise. The idea behind WIR is that, kind of like "Monsters, Inc.", there is a sentient life at the arcade once the lights go out. Ralph is the Donkey Kong-ish villain who longs for more after 30 years of gettign tossed off buildings by the hero, so he leaves his game and goes to others in a quest to change his fortune. And while that sounds a bit thin for a premise, it's really not -- because it works for the kids on a slapstick and cartoon level, for the 20s due to the recognizable voice actors, and for the 'rents (that'd be, well, me) who truly appreciate Q*Bert references.

What this means from a visual standpoint is that the animators have all kinds of challenges; everything from 8-bit retro arcade games to high-def Halo-esque games to hyper-kinetic Japanese cart racing and more, and they ace all of it. Which then leads to the voice acting. The leads are all recognizable (John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch) and just natural. In reading up on the movie while doing this review, I caught the tidbit that it was actually recorded with the leads in the room with each other, which lead to improvisation that was actually used; it's a small point, but lends well to the pacing. And, well, also to the casting, since it's unlikely that less-intelligent actors could have improved on things. I'd also like to give props to Alan Tudyk, who I loved in "Firefly", for channeling the voice of the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland" (the original Disney version, naturally) in his work.

In short, WIR is that rarest of things: the kids movie that works for everyone in the family. The Shooter Wife and I were rewarded and not bored. The Eldest was entertained and appreciative of the original plot. And the Shooter Youngest, while briefly scared by the more grown-up game footage, loved the cart sequences and the ending. There's also far more heart in this than you might imagine, especially in dealing with someone like Silverman, who's made her money in life by being anything but sincere and heartfelt.

The movie's done major box office, and we're late to the party, so you don't really need to go to make the point... but go anyway, especially if you have kids, for the simple fact that encouraging people who make this kind of work is a good idea. Maybe they'll make more. And with that, I'm off to go find a retro simulation of Q*Bert, and maybe price some consoles to put in the Man Cave...

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