The World Behind the Game Screen

I headed to the movies this weekend to see Wreck-It Ralph–and it was adorable!

The premise centers around the magical question: what if all the imaginary characters really were alive?  What if toys came to life when we weren’t looking, what if characters crept out of books to hang out together when the library was closed, what if the Tiki Room birds really did get up every morning and perform dozens of shows a day?

And what if the characters in arcade games were going about their lives somewhere behind the screen?

As you might guess, this is a question that has always fascinated me!

Wreck-It Ralph is an enormously fun romp through arcade games, with endearing characters and a surprisingly warm message–without getting saccharine, despite an over-abundance of sugar!

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain character in Fix-It Felix Jr., whose role is to wreck the apartment building every game.  After thirty years, Ralph is tired of always being treated as the villain, even when the game is turned off.  In a slightly contrived plot-turn, he vows to leave his game and go win a medal, proving that he can be a hero too.  The quest takes him first to Hero’s Duty, a violent shooter-game, and then into Sugar Rush, a candy-themed racing game.  In Sugar Rush, he meets Vanellope, a little girl who dreams of being a racer but has been banned because she’s a “glitch,” a program error who visually shorts out when upset.  Meanwhile, Fix-It Felix Jr. is in danger of being turned off without Ralph, and all is not well in Sugar Rush…and a fair amount of havoc ensues.

The concept of this is SO much fun.  I love that arcade game characters can travel between each other’s games.  The support group for Bad Guys is held in Pac Man, and when they’re off-duty, characters hang out in Tapper’s, a bar game.  The animation is great for portraying this world, because it can change as characters go from one game to another.  And there are so many gaming references in here; I’m not much of a video or arcade game player, but some things everyone can get–and I suspect the more you know, the better it is!

This has great characters as well–Ralph is likable as a “Bad Guy who’s not a bad guy,” who’s been trapped in his role all his life.  Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) walks a very fine line, somehow being  annoying yet ultimately sympathetic too.  And I loved Calhoun, the tough-as-nails, single-minded female soldier from Hero’s Duty.  She’s voiced by Jane Lynch, who you might recognize as Sue from Glee.  I think all three characters are sympathetic in part because you come to realize they’re not nearly as hard or as tough as they want to act.  And then there’s Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), who is not remotely tough, but literally bounces through life (with sound effects very reminiscent of Mario), wonderfully polite and eager to please.

I have to also note King Candy, the affable yet sinister monarch of Sugar Rush.  I didn’t realize until writing this review that he was voiced by Alan Tudyk, beloved of geeks for his role as Wash in Firefly.  He was plainly channeling Ed Wynn (Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins)–from listening to the voice, I would have sworn it was Ed Wynn if I didn’t know he couldn’t possibly still be alive.

To give due nod to a very minor character, I love that the main human we see playing the arcade games is a girl.  And she’s not just playing Sugar Rush–she’s playing Hero’s Duty too.  Way to break the stereotypes!

If you can’t tell already, this is a wonderfully funny movie, from Felix’s bouncing to Ralph and Vanellope’s banter, from the ridiculous characters in Sugar Rush to the parodies of games–and sometimes life.  Whenever he passes through Game Central Station between games, Ralph gets stopped for security screening and is convinced he’s being profiled.

The plot is occasionally contrived, but the humor is excellent, the characters are endearing, and ultimately it’s a wonderful story about finding yourself.  You may want to bring some candy into the theater–Sugar Rush will make you want it–and you may want to plan some time for arcade games too!

Movie Site: (But be warned, the trailer is so-so.)

IMDB Profile: (with a better trailer!)

3 thoughts on “The World Behind the Game Screen

  1. I took my nine-year-old and five-year-old to see the movie this last weekend and we all enjoyed it immensely. I love that there were bits in there that only the grown-ups got, like the two donut cops in Sugar Rush, Dunkin and Winchell. Hilarious.

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