This review contains SPOILERS
As far as animated movies go, Pixar has dominated the industry for years, rightfully so. They can make any idea work—a garbage cleaning robot that can become endearing, a rat that wants to be a cook, a family of superheroes, a man that travels in a house with balloons. They are the high mark to achieve when making an animated film. But does "Wreck-It Ralph" deliver the way Pixar does? Alas, it does not.
The main theme of "Wreck-It Ralph" is self-acceptance. It's somewhat reminiscent of Albert Camus' The Myth Of Sisyphus, in which the main character finds meaning in life by accepting that he's simply the guy that rolls stones up a hill....that's his thing, his niche. I wish that Ralph could have found this meaning at the beginning of the film instead of wasting my time for and hour and forty minutes.
The idea of "Wreck-It Ralph" is genius at the start, until you see how bogus it really is. Ralph begins the film by stating that he is a video arcade bad guy, he's the villain and he wants to be the good guy. The good guy gets cake and friends, possessions like a little golden medal. Why can't he have a golden medal? After all, we're all human here (metaphorically speaking). It's this need for material possessions that will be a gateway to being accepted by friends that starts our 'hero' on his quest. He wants to gets a shiny medal, but he can't get one on his own game so he hops games to a shooter game to get his medal.
Once in the shooter game, "Hero's Duty", he quickly gains his medal but then looses it in another game called "Sugar Rush". There he meets the adorable little Vanellope, who only wants to win a race in a car made out of candy so her game will accept her.
Vanellope and Ralph are the same person, they both are outsiders for different reasons and want to be in the 'in' crowd. Immediately you can see what the film is trying to do. Be yourself and accept who you are and then you'll be well-liked and have many friends, save the world, and eat candy. Wrong! This is not how things are, but the film moves on anyway.
Now, this idea of being whatever you want to be and accepting yourself for who you are is beaten into the viewer's head. It's repeated and repeated until it almost feels condescending. If you want to see it done the right way, watch "Ratatouille".
So, going away from the actual plot for a minute and looking at the setting, is it really that original? Yes, in the sense that they've taken video game characters and put them in a setting that no one has seen before. It's clever....right? Is it really that clever?
I present my argument: If you take "Monster's Inc", "The Matrix", "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and "The Wizard of Oz" (which has a blatant parody featured in the movie that really isn't that funny) and all of them had a baby, you would get "Wreck-It Ralph".
In the shooter game, the villains are said to be "pure virus" that can wipe out the entire arcade if they're let go. First of all, bad writing. Second, hmmmmmmmmm sound familiar to anyone who's seen "The Matrix"?
At night, when the arcade is shut down, the characters mingle in room that looks remarkably similar to "Monster's Inc". In fact, the whole idea of this movie seems like a virtual carbon copy of "Inc"...add video games, minus monsters. Then the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" part seems self evident. Lastly, "The Wizard of Oz", it's a journey that Ralph and Vanellope take in this movie, much like following the yellow brick road. Except, in "Ralph" it's: win the race so Ralph can get the medal that Vanellope stole from him and used to buy her way into the race and be accepted by his piers who really don't like him. Which would you rather watch? "Oz" or "Ralph"?
So, okay the idea is semi-original and the theme is overstated, I can overlook these things in the right circumstances. But these circumstances weren't there. The dialogue is embarrassingly bad. Unlike other animated movies like "Up" who's script is remarkable, "Ralph" contains poop and vomit jokes that never end as well as a horrible back story for a character that is meant to be dramatic but ends up being cliche. And that's not the only cliche moment, they pile up as high as the celling until it's hard to breathe under them
There are so many things taken from other movies in "Ralph" that if felt like watching a plagiarized college paper.
On top of everything else was the product placement that felt a little too heavy handed. There's Diet Coke Mountain and characters fall into Nesquik sand and have beat each other to make the Laffy Taffy help them out. Wow. Is it really that bad?
Well, the kids behind me in the theater didn't think so, but then again when the movie was over I heard one of them say, "That was it?" Yes indeed, little child. I feel cheated too.
You can make the case that "Ralph" is entertainment for kids and shouldn't be taken at such a high standard. What about all the Pixar movies (minus "Cars")? What about Dreamworks even? They all make incredibly good animated movies.
Although the idea behind "Wreck-It Ralph" was fresh, it petered out in the first five minutes.
Added on to the direct stealing of "Monster's Inc"'s thunder is the voice casting. John C. Reilly is a great choice for Ralph. But the character is too much like Sully from "Inc". Then Reilly's voice seems uncannily too much like John Goodman's. And I ask, who are the hero's sidekicks? Smaller people who are both voiced by comedians. The size difference is virtually the same from Sully and Mike to Ralph and Vanellope.
The plot is so predictable and the jokes aren't funny. It was a good attempt but it needed something that it didn't have: a much better script.
It's a children's movie too adult for them (one scene had a character literally ripping another's anatomically correct, still-beating heart out of their chest) and too juvenile for adults (see the poop jokes). For the people in the middle, the teens, it just didn't work.
The one thing this film had was the CGI itself. The animation is seamless and only seems to improve with time.
So what does Pixar have that "Wreck-It Ralph" doesn't? A storytelling ability that is unrivaled even in live-action movies. If "Ralph" had that, something decent might have been made.
Clearly, this is just my opinion. Feel free to disagree. A lot of people liked it, but I was not one of them.
Score: 1 and a half stars out of 4