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Wreck-It Ralph (3D Blu-ray Review)

1 Mar, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 3/5/13
Box Office $186.68 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 BD/DVD, $49.99 3D BD combo pack
Rated ‘PG’ for some rude humor and mild action/violence.
Voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Mindy Kaling, Joe Lo Truglio, Dennis Haysbert.

While Brave may have taken the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the real best animated film from 2012 is this crowd-pleaser that takes you behind the screens of your favorite video games, carrying on the legacy of Disney animation with a thoroughly modern premise. Wreck-It Ralph may not be as traditional or stodgy as the Pixar effort, which was more likely to appeal to the typical Academy voter, but it certainly has a lot of heart.

It’s also a lot of fun, especially in the first 20 minutes or so when it’s basically a geek fest of pop culture references. I dare anyone who grew up after the 1980s to get through those early scenes without a huge smile on your face.

The premise is essentially Toy Story meets Tron, yet Wreck-It Ralph doesn’t feel derivative. Set in a typical arcade, all the video game characters come to life after the kids head home, and can hop from game to game, thanks to some ingenious sight gags (the main power strip for the game cabinets serves as a kind of grand central station for the various game programs).

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain of the fictional Fix-It Felix, an early 1980s game not unlike Donkey Kong. Displaced from his home by an apartment complex, he vows to wreck the building, prompting Felix (Jack McBrayer) to repair the damage and save the residents. In a clever bit of pathos, Ralph meets with other video game baddies trying to come to terms with their destinies, but he’d rather be a hero. Instead of heeding a warning not to mess with the program, Ralph starts hopping into other games hoping to win a medal to prove his worth, but things go awry and he ends up trapped in a manga-inspired candy-themed racing game, and befriends a young girl (Sarah Silverman) seeking to find her own place in the digital world.

The voice work is top-notch, and the multitude of game worlds leads to a great diversity of animation styles, from herky-jerky 8-bit characters to the smooth HD of newer games. A lot of the humor stems from mixing in actual video games such as Pac Man, Sonic the Hedgehog and Street Fighter with the fictional ones created for the film. Perhaps it helps that Disney actually created real video games based on the ones from the film, available through various console platforms and mobile apps.

The 3D effects are effective but not overwhelming, and really come to life during the racing scenes in the latter half of the film. In fact, the 3D helps call attention to subtle details in the animation, such as slight smudges to the outer glass of the video game cabinets.

While Ralph didn’t win the Oscar, the DVD and Blu-ray does include Paperman, the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short. It’s a whimsical little tale about a bored office drone turning his daily workload into paper airplanes hoping to grab the attention of a girl who catches his eye in the building next door.

Otherwise, extras on the Blu-ray are rather light, amounting to some unused storyboard sequences and a few behind-the-scenes featurettes about the animation process. The best extra is the intermission mode, a 10-minute loop that plays when the movie is paused, allowing Chris Hardwick of “The Nerdist” to pop up and explain a lot of the hidden references contained within the movie. Also hilarious are some of the fake commercials created for the various video games used in the film, done in the style of the era from which they supposedly come.

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