Felix, feeling guilty, invites Ralph in much to the horror of the Nicelanders who live in the Penthouse, especially their leader, Gene.
Ralph and Gene get into an argument when Ralph sees the cake that they’ve made, which shows him at the bottom of the penthouse in a puddle of mud (ouch). He tries to put the little cake Ralph on top of the penthouse and also to give him Felix’s medal, but Gene angrily says that bad guys don’t win medals. Ralph says that he could too, and Gene says that if he ever wins a medal he’ll be allowed to live in the penthouse.
Later, Ralph is getting loaded at Tapper’s and pumping the barman for information on how to get a medal. Tapper lets him look through the lost and found and Ralph bumps into an inebriated space marine . The marine is from a newly installed first person shooter called Hero’s Duty and he’s already starting to crack under the pressure of constantly fighting an army of slavering alien insects and…wow this throws up some serious ethical considerations. I mean, it’s one thing for poor Ralph to have to get thrown off the top of a building over and over again, but what about the guys who have to do the really nasty shit? What about Silent Hill characters? How do they cope? Do they go insane?
Somehow, I don’t think a support group is going to cut it.
Also, I love how the marine keeps walking into a wall like his AI is faulty. Now, whenever I see a character glitching like that in a game I’m just going to assume he’s plastered. Anyway, the marine passes out and Ralph steals his armour and sneaks into Hero’s Duty to bag himself a medal. Here we meet Calhoun, the marines’ squad rookie-chewing commander voiced by the always fantastic Jane Lynch.
“You think fighting Cy-bugs is hard? I’m living with hepatitis, THAT’S hard!”
“Mouse, did you just make a Glee joke?”
““I…I…I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
Anyway, the game begins when the player arrives. I actually really like that the movie defies stereotype and has both Calhoun and the player be female to show how the demographics of gaming are shifting and how more girls are starting to play…
“OH GOD I JUST MENTIONED GENDER AND VIDEO GAMES ON THE INTERNET EVERYONE DEFEND THE COMMENTS SECTION!
“There’s too many of them!”
“Mouse? Mouse?! What do we do?!”
“Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the wind that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain. Like wind in the meadow.”
“Oh great. Mouse’s lost it. We’re goosed.”
“Hold up dawg. Look. In the east.”
“The Unshaved Mouse stands alone.”
“No. Not alone.”
“Heaven forfend you go five minutes without me pulling your tail out of the fire.”
Alright, meanwhile, back in Fix it Felix Junior the game has started and without Ralph there to “Wreck It”, it’s around as challenging as any of the other games you kids play these days. Why back in my day we had three lives and that was it, none of this “regenerating health” nonsense and our escort missions lasted three days in the snow, uphill both ways.
And mushrooms knew their place, dammit.
One of the kids tells the arcade owner that the machine’s busted, and he sticks a big red “out of order” sign on it. Realising that unless they get Ralph back the game will be unplugged, Felix goes looking for him and tracks him to Hero’s Duty where he meets up with Calhoun who he’s instantly smitten with.
Meanwhile, Ralph has managed to climb a tower in the game and stolen a medal but he accidentally breaks an egg which releases a tiny Cy-bug. The Cy-bugs are the game’s villains and, unlike other video game characters, they’re not just guys doing a job. They’re actually vicious alien monsters and if it wasn’t for the fact that at the end of every game a beacon lights up and destroys them, they’d pretty quickly overrun Hero’s Duty. Calhoun also explains that they “become what they eat” which will have consequences later on both for the story, and your pants.
Your poor, poor pants.
Anyway, Ralph gets attacked by the Cy-Bug and ends up stumbling into an escape pod (honestly this whole bit is a bit contrived for my liking) and he blasts out of the game, into Game Central and crashes into another game called Sugar Rush, a Mario-kart esque racing game set in a world of sweets and chocolate not to be confused with a certain other game.
One more invite, I swear to God…
The Cy-bug seemingly drowns in a pool of pink goo but Ralph discovers that his medal is missing. It’s here that me meets Vanellope voiced by Sarah Silverman and how you feel about that will really decide whether this character is going to be a fun time for you. Some people love her. Some can’t stand her. In the beginning I found her annoying but not to a deal-breaking degree, and as the movie goes on she became a lot more sympathetic to me. Anyway, Vanellope runs off with the medal (thinking it’s a gold coin) and Ralph chases after her.
Back in Game Central, Calhoun tells Felix that the Cy-Bug will devour Sugar Rush and then spread to the rest of the arcade in they don’t stop it. Felix asks Calhoun’s lieutenant why she’s always so “Jane Lynchy” and he explains that it’s because she was programmed with a tragic backstory, the one day she didn’t do a perimeter check was her wedding day, and her fiancee was killed by a Cy-Bug.
“Tch. Rookie mistake.”
In Sugar Rush, the game characters are holding a race to choose the roster for the next day’s gaming. The game is ruled by King Candy (Alan Tudyk, doing an absolutely amazing impression of the late, great Ed Wynne) with assistance from his major-domo, Sour Bill. We also meet Taffyta Muttonfudge (Mindy Kahling) a name that sounds absolutely filthy but is not. So all the racers throw their coins in a big trophy to register and Vanellope throws in Ralph’s medal. Everyone freaks out when they realise what she’s done because Vanellope is “a glitch”, an error in the programme that shouldn’t exist. Ralph, who’s gotten covered in sweets and chocolate and frosting and is basically just now diabetes in the form of a man, crashes the race looking for his medal and gets mistaken for a monster. Vanellope escapes in the confusion and the Candyland cops (two donuts, naturally) start to beat the filling out of him.
Okay, I can buy that they’re talking donuts. But police officers engaging in this kind of brutality? Now that’s just silly.
Ralph is brought before King Candy, who recognises him even though Ralph has apparently never met him before (hmmmmmmmmm) and Ralph explains that he won a medal in Hero’s Duty and just wants it back. Candy warns him against “going Turbo” (hmmmmmmmmmmm) and says that the medal is gone and will only come back after it’s been awarded to the winner. He tells the cops to sling Ralph’s ass back on the next train to his own game but Ralph gives them the slip and goes on the run. He comes across Vanellope being bullied by Taffyta and the other racers who are wrecking her car. Ralph scares them off and then bitches at Vanellope for stealing his coin. She says that she only borrowed the medal and was totally going to return it to him after she won the race (cough cough bullshit cough cough). With her car wrecked, though, it looks like she’s not going to win and Ralph’s not going to get his medal back, so she manages to coax Ralph into helping her make a new car.
Felix and Calhoun find Ralph’s crashed escape pod and go looking for him and the Cy-bug. Felix says he’d never ave imagined that Ralph would go Turbo and Calhoun says she’s never heard that expression. So he explains that long ago there was a game called Turbo Time who’s main character was legendary dreamboat Turbo.
Honestly, I haven’t been so baffled by a cartoon character’s popularity with the ladies since Justin Bieber.
But one day a new racing game was installed and Turbo just couldn’t handle being the Woody to someone else’s Buzz Lightyear and invaded the other game causing both it and his own game to crash and be unplugged. While explaining this, Felix and Calhoun run afoul of a threat almost as insidious as the Cy-Bugs; Product Placement!
Disney, how can you be this desperate for money? You own LITERALLY MY ENTIRE CHILDHOOD.
Yeah, I actually have to call a mark against this movie; the fucking product placement. I don’t mean all the licencesd characters, that’s fine. It makes sense for them to be there and they’re all used well for the most part. But stuff like this ad for Nesquik and the Subway logo plastered over half the arcade gets grating after a while. Anyway, they get out of the pit of delicious, chocolately Nesquik (hey, a mouse has to eat) by attracting Laffy Taffy by making it laff, er, laugh. And they do that by Calhoun beating seven shades of sprite out of Felix because nothing is funnier than domestic abuse apparently. Oh, by the way, I had no idea what Laffy Taffy was and I had to look it up.
Okay. That looks like a strip of congealed vomit.
Vanellope and Ralph break into a bakery and succeed in building Vanellope a car with an working engine and everything, King Candy arrives with the fuzz and Ralph tells Vanellope to floor it. Slight problem: She doesn’t actually know how to drive.
They escape through the power of Ralph’s big gorilla hands and hide out in Vanellope’s secret hideaway, an unfinished level with an underground lake of cola directly under dangling stallactites of Mentos which I’m sure will play no role in resolving the final conflict of this film.
Alright, so if Ralph is going to get his medal back that means Vanellope is going to have to win the race which means she’s going to have to learn how to drive and even Rocky had a montage let’s go!
The montage works and Vanellope clealry has some natural skills as a driver but she keeps glitching and teleporting from place to place like Nightcrawler which is a teeny bit of a liability when you’re driving something hurtling around a track at the speed of sound but she promises Ralph she’ll get it under control.
Meanwhile, Felix and Calhoun are falling for each other but then he makes the mistake of calling her a “dynamite gal” which was, as we see in flashback, were the only two words her fiancee was actually capable of speaking (their entire courtship must have been like dating a Groot.). She tells him to screw off and, broken hearted, he goes looking for Ralph at King Candy’s castle and, when Sour Bill hears that he’s from the same game as Ralph, gets locked up in the fungeon (the fun dungeon, where the puns are part of the torture).
Vanellope and Ralph are all set to go the race when she runs back to get something for him, leaving him alone with the car. King Candy then drives up and now things take a turn I really was not expecting. I’ll be honest, the very first time I saw this movie it caught me in a bad mood and I just wasn’t that into it. I didn’t really care if Vanellope won the race, I didn’t care about Ralph getting the medal and I was just about ready to write this off as a noble failure on Disney’s part. It’s right around here that the slapped me right in the balls grabbed me by the neck and hissed into my face “Oh I’m sorry, did I break your concentration?” Candy tells Ralph why he’s been trying so hard to stop Vanellope from racing. Because if the players see her glitching, they’ll think the game is broken and it’ll be unplugged. All the Candy Landers will be homeless, but even worse, Vanellope will not be able to leave the game and will actually die. Kind Candy has been trying to literally save her life. He tells Ralph that she’s the only one who she’ll listen to and that he has to convince her not to race. He then gives Ralph the medal and drives off.
Vanellope comes back and gives Ralph a medal that she made for him herself.
“Good thing you’re not planning on destroying my dreams otherwise this would be bitterly ironic in the extreme, huh Ralph?”
As I’ve explained in previous reviews I’ve decided to call this era of Disney movies “The Redemption Era”, because it’s here that we see Disney reassessing the lessons and morals they’ve been teaching kids for the past three quarters of a century. So how does Wreck-It Ralph fit into that? Disney movies tend to have a very black and white morality. The good guys are good, the bad guys wear black and cackle and turn into giant monsters. In real life of course, it’s rarely that simple.
That time when Hitler turned into a giant octopus notwithstanding.
In real life, sometimes good people have to do bad things. In real life, sometimes you have to hurt the ones you love. You may have to break off a relationship with someone who loves you because you know that it’s not good for either of you. You have to lock someone in a room until whatever shit they’ve put inside themselves has worked it’s way through. Sometimes, you have to be the bad guy.
Now, I’m not saying that we’ve never seen good characters do bad things in Disney movies before. Lilo and Stitch had Cobra Bubbles and of course you had Triton trashing Ariel’s treasure room in Little Mermaid. But Bubbles was a secondary character and Triton was acting more out of irrational rage than anything. Wreck-It Ralph puts our hero front and centre and says to its audience “Ralph is about to do something terrible. And he is absolutely right to do it.”
And we have never had that before.
I didn’t put the scene of Ralph wrecking the car on my list of tear-jerking moments because I didn’t cry watching this. I just watched in slack-jawed horror. It’s really, really tough going guys. If you haven’t seen the movie then it must sound ridiculous. Yes, this is a scene where a big gorilla looking guy smashes a car made out of sweets but Christ it’s rough. The combination of Vannellope’s desperate screams and the sheer violence of it…
Alright, so Vanellope runs off in tears and Ralph takes his medal and goes home to find that Fix it Felix Jnr is now abandoned with the exception of Gene. Gene gives Ralph the key to the penthouse and tells him that the game is going to be unplugged tomorrow. Ralph hurls his medal at the screen in answer which causes the “Out of Order” sign to slip, and Ralph sees the rest of the arcade. And the Sugar Rush cabinet. Which has Vanellope’s cute little punum plastered all over it and what the hell?! Ralph realises that he’s been played for a sucker and heads back to Sugar Rush and ambushes Sour Bill. King Candy’s little eminence vert plays dumb but after Ralph threatens to see how many licks it takes to get to his centre and my God how did they get that into a kid’s movie? Sour Bill confesses and tells Ralph she was originally a racer but that King Candy tried to delete her code and is trying to stop her racing because if she crosses the finish line the game will reset and she won’t be a glitch anymore. That’s right! King Candy is actually the villain!
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
Now, given everything I’ve said about how ground breaking the movie is for showing us an actual moral dilemma, is it a cheat to have King Candy be the villain and for it to be perfectly safe for Vanellope to race? Yes. A little. It’s kind of a cheat. But I can forgive it for two reasons, one, without it, the movie just stops. And two, even if it turns out that he was lied to, Ralph still did the right thing for the right reasons given the information he had at the time. So Ralph breaks into the fungeon to rescue Vanellope and Felix. Apologies are made, friendships repaired and cars fixed, moving on.
Alright, so the race starts and Vanellope quickly starts overtaking the other drives until finally she and King Candy are neck and neck. But as Ralph and Felix watch the race on the big screen, Calhoun arrives and slugs Ralph right in the face and tells him that he’s just doomed this entire game. The Cy-Bugs burst through the chewy caramel mantle and start devouring everything in sight and Calhoun tries to hold them off while the Candylanders run for the exit.
On the racetrack through, Candy has had enough and is just trying to make Vanellope crash. As they battle she glitches and this causes him to revert to his true form. Because, you see King Candy is actually Turbo!
Oh, on a side note, I never knew before what movie the dramatic chipmunk music comes from until my wife and I sat down to watch Young Frankenstein and spent the entire runtime making chipmunk faces at each other. It was, no lie, the best day.
Vanellope is able to control her glitching enough to escape and Candy/Turbo gets eaten by a Cy-Bug. It looks like it’s all gravy but then Vanellope crashes yards from the finish line when Cy-Bugs burst up through the road (funny, that’s how I failed my driving test). The bugs then eat the finish line so Ralph, Felix and Vanellope have no choice but to run for the exit. Vanellope can’t pass through and she tells Ralph to leave without her. But Ralph overhears Calhoun saying that without a beacon the Cy-Bugs can’t be stopped and that gives him an idea. He steals Calhoun’s hoverboard and makes it to the top of the cola mountain, hoping to make the Mentos fall into the lake of cola and create a beacon but is stopped by OH SWEET GOD IN HEAVEN!!!
“I heard screaming whats going…HOLY FUCK!”
“Hey, whats all the noise about…JESUS!”
“What’s everyone looking at OH THAT SHIT AIN’T RIGHT!”
So Disney felt that King Candy wasn’t an imposing enough threat for the final showdown so they decided to have him get transformed into a Cy-Bug which is kind of like solving the problem that the room is a little stuffy by driving your car through the wall. Screenshots don’t actually do the horror justice because it’s the way he moves that’s so incredibly creepy. Like a scuttling, clattering centipede with a clown head bobbing around…eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeurrrrghh. It’s like they found a way to film my worst nightmares. Candy then flies Ralph way up high so he can watch Vanellope getting eaten alive by Cy-Bugs (when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are) and Ralph realises what he has to do.
“It’s game over for both of you.” Candy hisses.
“No.” says Ralph “Just for me.”
And Ralph breaks Candy’s grip and falls down towards the waiting earth, holding the medal Vanellope made for him and calling out the Bad-Anon affirmation. I’m bad. And that’s good. I will never be good. And that’s not bad. Because’s there’s no one I’d rather be, than me.
It’s…fantastic. Just beautiful. A perfect, perfect end for this character’s arc, a totally satisfying sacrifice that brings Ralph’s story to a close in a perfect, tragic yet triumphant oh what the hell?!
“I know, I’m as shocked as you are.”
Right, so at the last second Vanellope glitches in….somehow….driving a car that hasn’t been eaten by the Cy-Bugs….because reasons…and rescues Ralph just at the last minute.
Ah, I’m probably being unrealistic There’s no way Disney would actually let their main character die it just feels a little cheap given how beautifully the stage was set for a noble sacrifice. Ah well.
So the cola lake explodes which creates a tunnel of fire (man all those YouTube videos were full of shit) and this draws the Cy-Bugs in, including Candy who burns to death because fire is the cleanser. Fire is the cleanser.
Felix fixes the racetrack and Vanelloppe crosses it which causes the game to reset. Vanellope is now revealed to be Queen Vanellope, ruler of Candy Land. Taffyta and the other racers apologise for the way they treated her and Vanellope says that her first royal decree is that everyone who was mean to her is to be put to death.
Well shit, I didn’t realise this was an origin story.
She’s joking, of course, and instead declares a parliamentary democracy which I’m sure is going to go down so well with all the other game rulers (seriously, Mushroom Kingdom special forces are probably plotting her assassination as we speak) and Ralph says goodbye and heads back to his own game.
Happy endings all round: Calhoun and Felix get married, Q*Bert and his gang are allowed to join Felix Felix Jnr, Vanellope gets to race and they all live happily ever after.
To say that Wreck-It Ralph is the best video game movie ever made is certainly true but doesn’t really do the movie justice when you consider that its competition ranges all the way from the simply mediocre (hello, Prince of Persia) to some of the very worst films ever made (guten tag, Herr Boll). This movie represents Disney stepping out of its comfort zone and discovering that, hey, some of these other zones are pretty darn comfortable too. It marries good old fashioned Disney heart with a modern snarky wit like a plucky little handyman marrying a gun toting blonde space marine. The movie was a big box-office hit, now ranking as the fifth most successful of all the canon movies, and getting a healthy dose of critical love too. It’s also become something like a sacred text for gamers, in the same way that Star Trek fans have embraced Galaxy Quest. Put it on your “Must See” list.
Bright and colourful, nice character designs and great textures.
He’s great. And that’s good. He will never be bad. And that’s not bad.
Wow, who would have guessed that such a seemingly nice character would turn out to be the villain? Well, let me tell you, Disney aren’t going to full me with that trick again.
Supporting Characters: 17/20
Both the licenced characters and the original creations are used to excellent effect. Felix in particular is adorable, and Calhoun sure is a dynamite gal. Dynamite gal. Dynamite gal.
Someone on the IMDB boards went a strange shade of purple because I only gave Tangled 14/20 on music. To be clear, 14 is not a bad score at all. It’s like the animation, scored on a very, very steep curve.
FINAL SCORE: 81%
NEXT UPDATE: 09 October 2014
NEXT TIME: Ah screw it. Let’s sprint for the finish line.
Wanna build a snowman?