Friday Flicks is a one of our Periodicals, in which we decided to start up because of our love for Asian cinema.
What we do with Friday Flicks will be similar to what other websites do with film reviews, except we won’t give a grade or score. Rather, we will tell you what we like and what we don’t like about the film. Our main goal is to spread the awesomeness of Asian cinema, creating new fans and introducing new films to existing ones.
We plan on talking about films from all across Asia (including Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, The Philippines, etc), both old and new. We basically want to make Asian film fans out of you.
One last note: These reviews will have minor spoilers. We intend to not reveal any major plot twists or story lines. Yet, a movie review is nearly impossible to do without talking about about the story even at little.
That being said, let’s get the show on the road!
This week’s Friday Flick: Wreck-It Ralph
Original Title: Wreck-It Ralph
Main Cast:John C. Reilly (as Ralph)
Sarah Silverman (as Vanellope)
Jack McBrayer (as Felix)
- Disney first started development on a video game based movie in the 1980s. The project was codenamed “High Score”, then “Joe Jump” in the 1990s.
- The film draws inspiration from the original Donkey Kong.
- Unlike many other animated films, all the voice actors recorded their lines at the same time in one room.
- Japanese idol band, AKB48, has a featured song called “Sugar Rush”.
- There are many video game references in the film (see the “How Many Video Game References Can You Spot?” feature below.
After 30 years of being the bad guy in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr., Wreck-It Ralph has grown tired of being thrown into the mud and not getting the adoration, respect, medals, and baked goods his counterpart Felix does from all the other game characters.
After being reminded that bad guys don’t win medals, Ralph happens upon a tidbit of information that sets his whole adventure off: players in the new shooter game Hero’s Duty win a medal for beating the game. Determined to show everyone he can be a hero too, Ralph game-jumps into Hero’s Duty and inadvertently sets off a threat that could affect the whole arcade.
My Two Cents (Or I Suppose I Should Call it My Two Quarters)
First off, as one should always be aware with reviews like this, there may be mild spoilers here and there.
Let’s start with what got me to see the movie Sunday after its release: the video game references. Some are overt, some are more subtle, but they all contribute to the feeling of it being a real video game world. Having Ralph carry on conversations with Zangeif from Street Fighter and Clyde from Pac-man, as if they have known each other for years, helps draw gamers into Ralph’s world and dilemma quickly.
The movie is absolutely filled with them too, from the overt ones like the baddies in Ralph’s villain support group, to the very quick blink-and-you’ll miss-them variety. (Chun Li, for example, can be seen milling around in the background of the arcade’s central hub at one point.)
And of course, there’s the undeniable fact that the whole Fix It Felix Jr. game is homage to Donkey Kong. True, Donkey Kong and Mario themselves don’t appear in the film, but Ralph and Felix are clearly drawn from the duo.
Here’s the important part though: the references never drown out the main characters and the heart of the story. The movie is absolutely filled with jokes and tips of the hat, yes, but at the end of the day, it’s Ralph’s show, and I’m honestly grateful for it. Had the arcade references been overly gratuitous, I would’ve started to wonder what the point of trying to include original characters was.
And the characters are solid. Ralph is an identifiable character for anybody who’s felt they’ve been kicked in the dirt one too many times. What makes him endearing is that he’s not a mopey weirdo about it. He’s bummed, sure, but when he gets his goal, he’s determined to see the journey through, and doesn’t shy away from the pact that his power is decimating anything in his path.
I was worried that his counterpart Felix would come across as one of those good guys who was so damn smarmy and so goodie two shoes you’d want to see him sunk to the bottom of a lake. Not the case, though, as Felix is an affable guy who never steps into the boundary of perfection to the point of irritation.
In Hero’s Duty, Ralph meets Sergeant Calhoun, and any fan of Jane Lynch will recognize the character took a little modeling after her. That also means she’s impeccably performed by Lynch, and provides some of the biggest laughs of the movie. (Her series of flashbacks relating to the phrase “dynamite gal” had me in hysterics.)
Speaking of biggest laughs, let me side note by saying it’s nice that not ALL the humor is video game humor. There’s plenty of jokes that rely on just plain ol’ being funny, so if you’re not a heavy gamer, there’s still plenty to find here. In fact, it was a reference to the Wizard of Oz that probably gave me my biggest side-slitting laughing fit of the whole damn film.
I of course have not forgotten the eventual heroine of the movie, Vanellope von Schweetz. She might very well be my favorite character in the movie, which honestly came as a surprise to me because of my usually disdain for kid characters. But Vanellope’s quick-fire wit and determination to see her dream through makes her a character to cheer for, and her friendship with Ralph is, to steal a line from the film, “Top Shelf.”
I’ll be honest, I tend to be overcritical of plots in just about everything, but Wreck-It Ralph’s had me engrossed to the very end, and while I did see two of the movie’s twists coming a mile away, that didn’t spoil the fun for me. (It’s a curse of mine anyway – a lifetime full of reading detective stories has destroyed my ability to be surprised by anything.)
The animation is polished, crisp, and well-done, and the fact we get to go game- hopping with Ralph means each act of the film gets its own distinctive visual look.
I’d like to close with an anecdote of something I saw outside the theater on my way out of the movie. Two young kids were asking their father questions about the arcade games in the movie, with dad telling them of the days of his youth playing Q*bert, Pac-Man, and Street Fighter. Family entertainment that promotes family bonding?! Crazy, I know.
There’s something for everyone here – it’s a love letter for old arcade fans, a well-crafted animation fest for families and animation geeks, and just pure dang fun.
How Many Video Game References Can You Spot?
There’s a ridiculous amount of video game references in this movie, especially in the Central Hub where all the video game characters hang out. Here’s a good amount of video game references you can spot in Wreck it Ralph. (I’m not listing them all of course.)
-Zangeif, Clyde, Bowser, M. Bison, and Dr. Robotnik are all easy to spot in the Bad-Anon meeting, but also with speaking roles are clever homages to Kano of Mortal Kombat and the zombies from House of the Dead. Heck, even Neff (the purple rhino) from Altered Beast makes an appearance.
-Street Fighter has a good chunk of its cast make an appearance. Ryu and Ken are breifly seen in the arcade, with one line each. (Extra bonus: said lines are delivered by their Street Fighter IV voice actors, Kyle Hebert and Reuben Langdon.) They can later be seen in the tapper scene. Zangeif and M. Bison are members of the Bad-Anon meeting, Chun Li and Cammy are seen walking around Central Station. Blanka shows up in the end credits, as does the famous car smashing mini-game.
-Q*Bert, Coily, Slick, Sam, and Ugg all make appearances, and all factor minorly into the film’s plot.
-Nintendo wanted too much money for Mario and Luigi themselves, but Disney nonetheless snuck clever references to Nintendo-related stuff. Ralph and Felix, as said, are inspired by Donkey Kong and Mario. Felix briefly mentions Mario in one scene, Chun Li is seen talking to two princesses who look VERY much like Peach and Daisy. A mushroom appears in a scene, while a part of the credits in inspired by the underground portions of Mario.
-Furthermore, Sugar Rush has some strong allusions to Mario Kart – powerup blocks especially.
-Central station has an utter boatload of video game characters walking around, including Dig Dug (who burrows underground to get away from Ralph), The Knight and Ostrich from Ralph, and two Pong paddles.
-Sonic can be spotted four separate times. His first is obvious, it’s a speaking role (current Sonic VA Roger Craig Smith delivers the line), and he’s seen briefly getting hit by an escape pod and scattering his rings. The other two are a bit more subtle – I’ll let you find them on your own.
-Tapper is where all the video game characters go to hang out after hours. Check all the pictures on the wall near the lost and found for a TON of cameos.
-The Konami Code features prominently at one part.
-Ralph sarcastically gives his name as “Lara Croft” in once scene.
-Look at the graffiti on the wall of the station as Ralph is returning from Pac-man. On the wall, you’ll see the message “Aerith Lives.”
-In the 30 years transition, a lot of older classic games transition in and out of the arcade.
Watch this film If…
… you want a wholesome family movie, are a video game fan, or just see a great, animation about an underdog overcoming all odds.