So, this is basically a review with spoilers. You've been warned.
It was a while ago that I went to see Wreck-It Ralph, and my opinions about it at the time are much different from my opinions about it retrospectively.
AT THE TIME
Wreck-It Ralph bills itself as an homage to videogame culture and history, and I didn't expect it to rise much above that. But I was surprised. The story is set in an olde-timey video arcade; specifically within the game cabinets themselves. The videogame characters submit to player control during the day and lead their own lives at night, visiting each others' cabinets and socialising. We learn that when the lights go out the videogame villains are shunned by the protagonists (they even have their own support group) and that characters whose games get unplugged end up homeless. We see an interesting social dynamic crop-op wherein people who hate each other are forced to work together year after year to keep their game functional and popular, or else lose their homes. We also learn about a character named Turbo (about halfway through the movie) who left his failing game to be a part of a more popular game, resulting in the disconnection of both game cabinets. Owing to that incident, "going Turbo" is just about the most contemptible act that a character can commit.
We meet Wreck-It Ralph, whose job it is to smash up the same apartment building every time a player puts a quarter in, so that the player character, Fix-It Felix Jr, can go repair it. At the end of the game, the tenants of the apartment building throw Ralph off the roof and into the mud. When the arcade closes, Ralph goes back to the junk pile where he lives, and Felix parties with the NPCs in the apartment building. Ralph's sole goal in life is to earn an apartment of his very own - not an unreasonable aspiration after thirty years of hard work and sleeping on garbage.
When the tenants of the apartment building throw Ralph out of a party he tries to crash, Ralph decides to go Turbo to try his massive hand at being a hero, for once. He puts on some space marine armour and goes into the game Hero's Duty, which is a send up of...um...just about every action game ever made. After one session he decides that the game is too challenging: Instead of earning the end game reward, the Hero Medal, by fighting his way up the cyber-punk tower, he resolves to climb up the outsied of the tower, smash his way in, and steal it. Wouldn't you know it, he accidently releases the "cybugs", and in his escape attempt takes them into "Sugar Rush", a racing game that has none of the firepower needed to contain them.
The story gets a bit convoluted here, so I'll try to just breeze through it: The female protagonist from Hero's Duty teams up with Fix-It Felix to track down Ralph and stop the cybugs, and in the process they fall in love. Ralph's Hero Medal gets stolen by Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman - I've never been a fan of her stuff, but she does well here), a girl in Sugar Rush who wagers it on a race which Ralph must help her win in order to get it back. Every other character in Sugar Rush wants to sabotage Vanellope's race, including reigning moarch King Candy, because she's a "glitch" (she can teleport short distances, which seems a useful talent in a racing game).
SPOILER ALERT: It turns out King Candy is actually Turbo, and he's turned all the residents of Sugar Rush against Vanellope because she's the rightful ruler, Princess Vanellope. The cybugs attack; Ralph saves the day by smashing things; the end.
I really liked the movie at the time: Good triumphs over evil, videogame culture gets lightly roasted, and there's a cameo by Sonic the Hedgehog. But....
...every single sentence of that summary is dripping with elitism.
The strangest thing is that I'm the only one who seems to have noticed it. Movie Bob on The Escapist says that the biggest issue with Wreck-It Ralph is that new rules keep getting made up to artificially heighten the stakes. I heard a critic say that Wreck-It Ralph was a kids' movie that lost sight of what it was supposed to be thirty minutes from the end. No one else seems to have the same problem that I have with this movie.
About halfway through, there is a scene in which Ralph returns to his own game cabinet and finds that most of his coworkers have moved out in anticipation of their imminent unplugging. The one tenant remaining in the apartment building hands Ralph the key and turns to leave.
"I was just tired of living alone in the garbage," Ralph says.
"Congratulations," says the other guy. "Now you get to live alone in an apartment."
HOW IS THAT NOT AN IMPROVEMENT!? I can't speak for everyone, but I would take living alone in an apartment over living alone in a dump any day.
The moral of this story seems to be that people who try to do better for themselves are traitors; that the key to a happy life is to learn your place and support the ruling class because they're just better than you. (This is not even touching the fact that Ralph had to steal his medal because he couldn't earn it, or the fact that they are all literally play-things for the arcade patrons.) I don't know about you, but I'm not comfortable with having that kind of message preached to me. And I most certainly wouldn't be okay with having that kind of message preached to my kid (if I had one).
I am actually too outraged to come up with a suitable closing statement. Peace out, y'all.
[tags: wreck-it ralph, review, elitism]