Hey guys! Sorry I haven’t been around much lately – school occasionally demands my attention. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but I’m back now and gearing up for finals, and my attention is back on this blog. I probably won’t catch up on the weeks of Parks and Recreation, Happy Endings, Supernatural, and New Girl that I missed, but starting this week, my reviews will be regular. Maybe I’ll catch up on those episodes during a week when they’re not airing a new episode. But until then, you can expect reviews of all four this week, as well as reviews of all the movies I’ve seen this month. I’ll be posting movie reviews once a week, and in order of when I saw them, so forgive me if you don’t care about Argo in two weeks.
The first movie I saw this month was Wreck-It Ralph. Spoilers are ahead, so if you haven’t seen it and are planning on it, don’t look ahead!
I think we can all admit that we’re guilty of categorizing people. A guy’s wearing giant glasses and skinny jeans, so he’s a hipster. A high school girl plays sports, so she’s a jock. And come on – I think we’ve all seen The Breakfast Club. As much as we may not want to admit it, there are stereotypes in the world, and we do often take one look at a person and decide that they’re a jock, or a nerd, or a prep.
But of course people are so much more complicated than that, and most people don’t like being pushed into one small box. But as much as a so-called jock might point to all his textbooks and his stellar GPA and insist that, look, he’s so much more than that, does that mean he thinks it’s a bad thing to be a jock? Does a rejection of the label mean a rejection of the identity itself?
Personally, I don’t think it does, and that’s exactly what is at the crux of Wreck-It Ralph. The film takes place in a video game arcade, where, after the lights are turned off and all the patrons go home for the day, the video game characters can leave their games and live whole lives in these worlds. We’re immediately introduced to Fix-It Felix, Jr., a game in which Ralph (John C. Reilly) attacks an apartment building and terrifies all the residents. He repeatedly breaks the windows during his rage, and it’s the job of Fix-It Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer), the player-controlled hero, to fix everything Ralph breaks.
But even though the game is titled after Ralph, he’s not the beloved character. Everyone – the players, the residents of the apartment building – love Felix. While the hero has a luxury penthouse inside, Ralph sleeps in a scrapyard a few feet away. Every night, he has to watch as everyone has fun and, more importantly, friends.
He attends a support group for video game villains, who accept their role in their game. But Ralph isn’t so keen to forever label himself a bad guy, and expresses his desire to change his image.
Ralph reaches his breaking point when the game celebrates its 30th anniversary, and everyone throws a party without him. He crashes the party, oblivious to the fact that no one wants him there until someone brings out the cake: a representation of the end of the game, where the residents throw Ralph off the roof and present Felix with a gold medal. Ralph suggests that he should be on top of the cake, too, and tries to switch his figurine with Felix’s. But he accidentally destroys the whole cake, and, having become aware that everyone views him as a “bad guy,” he heads off on a quest to receive a gold medal, proving that he’s as much of a hero as Felix is.
He wins his medal in Hero’s Duty, a first-person shooter where the goal is to kill all the Cy-Bugs. But when he’s leaving, he accidentally activates a Cy-Bug egg, and it hatches and clings to the escape pod Ralph uses to leave the game. It attacks Ralph while he’s flying, and he crashes into Sugar Rush, a painfully pink racing game. He loses his medal in the crash, and while he’s searching for it, he meets Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who steals his medal and uses it to buy her position in the qualifying race for the next day’s games.
But the other players in Sugar Rush seem to have a problem with Vanellope, and don’t want her racing. After watching a few girls bully her, Ralph is determined to help her build a car that will ensure her victory. But a visit from King Candy (Alan Tudyk) explains why everyone doesn’t want Vanellope to race, and Ralph realizes that he needs to stop her: Vanellope is a glitch in the game. She constantly “glitches,” or jumps around, and if a player chooses her and sees her glitch, they’re going to think the game is broken and tell the arcade owner, who will shut down the game. All the players will be able to escape, but without a new game, they’ll be homeless. And, worst of all, as a glitch, Vanellope will be unable to exit; she’ll be stuck in the game until it’s unplugged, when she’ll be lost forever.
Ralph’s relationship with Vanellope is one of the strongest parts of the movie, and certainly what made me cry the most (because, yeah. I cried, like, six times during this movie). She’s the only one who’s ever viewed him as anything other than a bad guy – not because of his gold medal, but because of how he helps her. Her trust in him is what gives him the courage to blow up Diet Cola Mountain, even though it means risking his own life. He doesn’t need a medal to be a hero: he just needed someone to believe in him.
This is where the idea of the label vs. identity comes in. Being a “bad guy” doesn’t mean Ralph is a bad guy, and he doesn’t become aware of that distinction until the very end of the movie. As much as he might fight against it, he is going to be seen as the antagonist in his game, because games need that black and white division. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of hurting people: he makes Vanellope watch as he destroys the car she worked so hard on creating, but he can’t tell her why. And even as he hurtles toward Diet Cola Mountain, he recites the Bad Guy Affirmation from his meetings: “I am bad, and that’s good. I will never be good and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.”
Yeah, I totally cried. He says it during his most heroic moment, resigning himself to life as the “bad guy” – a role he can only accept because he’s not. He is a good guy, and he can be a hero. Maybe Fix-It Felix, Jr., is the hero of Wreck-It Ralph, but that doesn’t mean Ralph is the villain.
But he’s not the only one who has to accept who he is. Vanellope hates her glitching, and though she doesn’t let it interfere with her plans of placing into the race and earning the love of her fellow racers, it is a serious problem. She knows she has to get it under control by the time the race starts, in which she can once again compete after Ralph, realizing King Candy lied about why he didn’t want Vanellope to race, gets Felix to fix her car. But she still can’t control it, and she glitches during the race – but it bumps her up a few places. She realizes she can use the glitch to her advantage, and eventually, she and King Candy are the only two left in the race. He attempts to sabotage her, but Vanellope glitches again, and her car’s sudden disappearance sends him off the track. After fending off a Cy-Bug, she crosses the finish line, which resets the game and restores her coding. She’s no longer a glitch, and is in fact the rightful ruler of Sugar Rush. But even though she’s been fixed, she holds onto her glitching ability, because she was able to master it, and that becomes her special skill during races. The exact trait that had made her hated and mocked by everyone is what allowed her to win and fix her game
Overall, I loved this movie. It was emotional, sweet, and very funny in parts, and though I didn’t pick up on them all, I caught enough video game references to appreciate them. The only real complaint I have is how long it took for all the various elements to click together. I went into this movie wanting to love it (and expecting to), and while I was entertained by the beginning, I don’t think it became great until Ralph has gone into Sugar Rush. Maybe the emotion is what made the movie special, and I wonder if I’d be able to appreciate Ralph’s struggle with wanting to be appreciated more on a second viewing.
Some other thoughts on the film:
-The romance between Felix and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) was brilliant, especially considering her backstory. Having your fiancé be killed by a Cy-Bug, and then having to kill him when he turns into a Cy-Bug, would be devastating, and it’s probably one of the darkest backstories a Disney character has ever had.
-I didn’t know Alan Tudyk voiced King Candy until I saw the credits. There were a few other recognizable voices as well, most notably Mindy Kaling, and while I know my newest obsession Skylar Astin had a role, I couldn’t pinpoint him.
-I didn’t see that twist with King Candy coming until about ten seconds before it actually happened. The character of Turbo was a running joke throughout the film, but not one I ever expected to pay off.
-I would have liked to see Ralph and Felix returning to their game, and seeing how the other characters responded to Ralph now that he’s become heroic. I think they were attempting to show that Ralph doesn’t need the characters to look up to him because he has Vanellope, but the characters did befriend him and grow to see him as more than a villain, so that takes on some weight. Still, I did cry again when Ralph says getting thrown off the roof is now his favorite part of the day, because he can see into Sugar Rush.
What did you think of Wreck-It Ralph? Let me know in the comments! And check back later this week for my reviews of New Girl and Happy Endings!