Wreck-It Ralph was a welcome twist on the Disney formula. Most Disney animated films are about a social outcast who leaves the society that rejects him or her, finds a surrogate family and returns to prove him or herself to his or her oppressors. That’s a very empowering message for the most part, but it can become a dangerous cliché too. Not everybody’s rebellion is justified and it becomes quite egotistical for every protagonist, let alone every viewer, to imagine he or she is the one who should change the world.
A quick examples of the wrongheaded Disney plot model. In A Bug’s Life, Flick wants so badly to be an inventor, but he’s a terrible inventor. His inventions destroy the ants’ crops, a system which works perfectly fine and doesn’t need improving. Flick just wants to be the special one. So he really doesn’t deserve to be an inventor. He’s not good at it. Don’t get me started on A Bug’s Life or this will cease to be a Wreck-It Ralph review. People like A Bug’s Life though so that may be a controversial example. Look at the Dreamworks knock-offs like Madagascar and Shark Tale: The Will Smith fish or the Chris Rock zebra want more than their ocean or zoo surroundings, so they go on an adventure that’s really empty. Even Disney themselves lost their groove after The Lion King, except for The Emperor’s New Groove, which is amazing.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain of a 1980s arcade came, Fix-It Felix Jr. Basically he’s Donkey Kong. When Ralph ventures outside of his own game trying to be the hero, and messes up both Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush, he doesn’t come back proving he was really the hero all along. His journey is to discover what’s great about his role in the world. It’s especially difficult because nobody in Fix-It Felix Jr. appreciates Ralph, but that’s what makes the message so poignant. Finding your place or being important doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will appreciate you. You have to find your purpose within. That is a profound spiritual message, one that rejects the standard notion of “prove yourself and reap the rewards of fame and hero worship.” If you can reap fulfilling rewards without any of the flashy outer trappings, then you’re really on a higher plane. That’s not to say don’t try for the hero’s journey/surrogate family/redemption arc in your own life. Just consider both options because they’re equally valid. It’s also possible that Ralph is a Christ figure sacrificing himself for the sins of the world.
Also, Wreck-It Ralph is about video games and all the classic characters teaming up, or at least making cameos in Ralph’s world. Based on the premise, I thought Wreck-It Ralph could be one of the best movies ever made. It fulfilled my expectations, but did not exceed them, which retroactively makes it only one of the greater movies ever made. I know, that’s a tricky loophole, but I also saw Paranorman which was greater than I ever could have imagined I even wanted a movie to be, so life is full of surprises. I thought Ralph did a good job servicing the video game fanboy, going to a few different worlds, featuring some characters and focusing on the world that would provide the most conflict for Ralph. I’m sure we can all think of versions of the story where Ralph teams up with Kong and Koopa in a Treasure of the Sierra Madre spoof, but that might not have been the best narrative choice.
Of course the Blu-ray looks phenomenal. Computer animation always does, partly because it remains in the digital realm with no process diluting it in between. The colors are bright, the 8-bit sequences appropriately jerky, and the environments so richly textured you can see more detail than in many live-action settings. Sugar Rush is a very neon world with its pink candy colors. And this is only the 2D Blu-ray I’m watching.
The deleted scenes on this are actually really interesting. They’re all in pencil sketch form but suggest significantly different avenues down which the story could have gone. Most notable is an entire other game world, that ultimately didn’t work because it’s an online game not an arcade game. I actually would have given them this leap. I wasn’t watching Wreck-It Ralph for the accurate depiction of arcade game merging, though the filmmakers were probably right. Lots of fans would nail them for violating the “Game Central Station” rules.
Commercials for the fake video games in Wreck-It Ralph are cute and the short behind the scenes feature is still thorough and mature. Disney extras are good at not talking down to kids, and at this point it seems they assume we’ve watched a lot of DVDs so we don’t need to retread the same material. There’s no director/filmmakers commentary but I can’t think of any questions that aren’t addressed in the features.
Considering Wreck-It Ralph was considered a frontrunner for Best Animated Feature Oscar, not to mention a successful movie, I’m a little surprised there aren’t more extras. The DVD and Blu-ray had to be locked long before they knew Brave would swoop in. Still, I’m partly happy that it’s not overloaded with filler. The materials are sufficient and the movie looks great on Blu-ray. Perhaps the real bonus feature is the consciousness shift the film’s unconventional story arc will bring about.