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1. Musings 45: Penny Arcade and The Gripping Hand
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Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: November 2, 2012

So... we're clearly in the Lasseter Era of Disney now.

Winnie the Pooh... Tangled... the collective works of Pixar... and now, Wreck-It Ralph, which can be viewed as nothing but the most sincere love letter to classic video games and arcades that the world has ever seen. Even the official movie website is fantastic.

This is one of those movies you'll want to watch over and over. Details everywhere - every time there's a scene in Game Central Station (the surge strip of the arcade), there are so many characters to see in the background from games of all generations, from classic 2D to modern day titles that you wouldn't expect.

The story really moves in three acts. In the very beginning, there's the setup itself - Ralph (John C. Reilly), his 30 years as the bad guy, 30 years of being treated as dirt by the residents of "Niceland." Not even treated very well by the other side of the coin, the player-character Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), whose name is on game cabinet. On the 30th anniversary of his game he finally goes to "Bad-Anon", a support group for video game bad-guys... itself a great set of cameos from all sorts of games, every one memorable to longtime players. A pep talk from Zangief and a zombie (most likely from House of the Dead) later, he's on his way back home, only to discover that the Niceland folks have thrown a party without him. With cake. And invitees from all sorts of other games.

Y'know, at this point I wouldn't blame the guy for looking like he just got Hundred Hand Slapped in the gut by E. Honda, and I'm sure nobody in the audience will either.

So Ralph... "Goes Turbo." There's a long backstory in that term, something that involves a lot of plot spoilers, but the essence of it is that he invades another arcade game and starts participating in it, screwing things up. In the game he busted into, Hero's Duty, he eventually ruins one round of gameplay and gets on the bad side of Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), hangs out a bit, and then proceeds to climb the wrong way up the game's tower, "earn" the Hero's Medal, and then trips over his own two feet in such a way that he gets blasted out of the game in an escape pod along with a crawling alien bug, winding up in Sugar Rush, the racing game where the bulk of the story plays out. Here's where he meets Vannelope (voiced by the iconic Sarah Silverman, and you'll never think for a second that she isn't perfect for the part), a "glitch" character trapped in a game full of go-karts made out of candy in a world that looks like a cross with a Candyland boardgame and Willy Wonka's factory. There's even a hot diet cola spring with precariously dangling Menthos above it. Vanellope wants to become a "real racer", winning the overnight character-selection races to become a playable character, because that'll validate her entire existence; up until now she's been living a very similar existence to Ralph, holed up in the partly-constructed ruins of an unfinished bonus track that can only be accessed by a secret, glitch-type entrance in the game itself.

Aaaand it's at this point I really should stop showing the plot. Everything I've mentioned before is part of one trailer or the website; the rest of the plot, the resolution, the conflict, they're all spoilerrific, but they all fit the characters so well. It's amazing how much story really fits into this movie, but everyone has something to do, something to be, something to realize. And at the end of the movie, it's not that everything from the outside has really changed that much for Ralph - but it is amazing how, even doing the same things, the small changes make such a big difference for him.

Plus, you'll walk home thinking you really, really want to see Sugar Rush made into an actual arcade game. Dang if it doesn't look like the funnest thing to play.

If you hadn't planned to see Wreck-It Ralph this weekend - do yourself a favor. Make the time. I don't care whether you see it in 2D or 3D, because it's amazing in either. Just see it and enjoy it, and stay ALL the way to the end of the credits.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at)!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!






Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Added:  Friday, November 02, 2012
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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