Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Movie Review: Wreck-it Ralph

Yesterday afternoon, C was obligated to go cook a meal for a church event that I was not involved in.  He took S, Z and O with him as "helpers," and so I just had H and J at home with me.  Nice!

While I could have easily just caught up on some emails and blogging and left them to lay around and watch television, I thought we could use our small number in the group to go do something fun that might not be as possible with all the kids.  We decided, among other things, to go see a movie that wasn't playing at the dollar theater.

H and J both chose Disney's Wreck-it Ralph, so I wasn't going to break up the happy agreement between siblings -- even though other movies might have sounded better to me.  I didn't even look to see what else was there because I didn't want to be tempted to sway them into disagreement.

I always try to avoid too many spoilers when I talk about a movie, but for those who like to know nothing, consider this YOUR WARNING.

So the basic premise of the movie begins with Wreck-it Ralph as the "bad guy" in an old 8-bit video game called Fix-it Felix, Jr.  Obviously, that means that Fix-it Felix, Jr., is the "good guy."  So anyway, this is one of the few remaining 8-bit games left in this particular arcade, so it's always in danger of being replaced by one of the newer-style games.  It's very important for the game to continue working exactly as it always has or the arcade owners won't waste time and money fixing it.

After hours in the arcade, all the characters in the various games like to hang out and relax and can also travel between games by way of their electrical plugs, which are all apparently plugged into one power strip.  Inside the power strip is a model of Grand Central Station (called Game Central Station).  Of course, that makes all the game characters alive with wills and desires of their own.  For them, their video game is their job, where they work. When their work day is done, they like to chill out, eat, hang with friends, etc.

I know it's all a little far-fetched, but stick with me here.  After all, I used to be convinced that my dolls woke and played when I left my room ... then years later, Toy Story came out and I knew I must not have been the only kid to ever imagine such a thing! 

Back to Ralph.  So after hours, all the people of Niceland (I think... or Nicetown?), invite Felix up to their apartments, feed him pie, throw parties and have a great time.  Ralph, though, he has to live at the dump where all the bricks and garbage are piled up, all alone.  He just wants to be treated like a valuable member of the Fix-it Felix, Jr. video game team.  But even when the game's not being played, the people of Niceland are still afraid of him.

So within the first fifteen minutes or so, Ralph figures out that he needs to leave his game and go to another one so he can gain some positive attention in hopes that when he returns to his game, the people of Niceland will accept and include him in all the usual after hours festivities.  He wants to come home some kind of hero -- or at least not have to live alone with the garbage anymore.

As you might imagine, when he leaves his game, chaos ensues, his game doesn't go as planned when the arcade is open (because he's not there so there is nothing broken for the hero to fix), the "out of order sign goes up and his game is in danger of being removed from the arcade, and it's up to Ralph to help fix his own mess this time (with the help of some friends he makes along the way) to save his game and put things back in order everywhere else the said chaos ensued.

-- Okay, the blogging continues 11/20, now two days after we saw the movie.  Got interrupted by H's medical needs yesterday (and blogged about that instead). --

Throughout the movie, we encounter several themes.  I felt like there were almost too many moral lessons in this movie to keep track.  I can see this movie being used in some hip Bible study for kids some day when it's out on DVD where the different themes are broken down and compared with Scripture.  Frankly, in one viewing of the movie, I lost track of what message we were supposed to take away from it.

A few of these themes or lessons are...
  • Be thankful for what you've been given/appreciate your circumstances
  • How to be a better friend
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness
  • Be who God made you to be and use those gifts for His glory (this movie is not "Christian" by any sense of the word, but a lot of the themes are ones we encounter throughout the Bible)
  • Community and teamwork
  • Hope
  • A broader definition of "heroism"
  • Healing from a broken past
  • Forgiveness
...and the list goes on.  I watched the movie, I didn't take notes, so I can't remember everything.  But you probably get the point.  There are a lot of good themes in this movie.

Some things that parents may want to consider before allowing their children (especially the younger ones) view this movie, are the following:
  • There is a lot of action and video game style violence.
  • There is a fair share of name-calling (some of it done "in fun," but if your kids tend to pick up on potty-mouth words easily, you may decide to skip this movie till they're past that phase ... this movie gives a lot of creative options).
  • The "cy-bugs" from one video game are a little frightening and appear throughout the movie at different points and in different games.
  •  While our 12- and 8-year-old kids loved the humor in this movie, I found the plot moved a little bit too slow because they were trying to pack in so many moral lessons, but apparently, the pacing was the right speed for kids.  I kept thinking to myself, "Will this movie ever end?!" (I guess this last consideration is more for the parents' sakes, than the kids'.)
I did enjoy most of the characters.  I think it's mostly because I'm somewhat familiar with the voice actor's in other television shows and movies, so I was able to hear similarities in their cartoon acting and their in-person appearances. 

For example, I've seen Glee, so I am familiar with Jane Lynch's portrayal of the cheer coach, Sue Sylvester, on that program -- there was the essence of the coach character in her role in this movie.  The same is true for the character played by Jack McBrayer (he portrayed Fix-it Felix, Jr. in this movie), who is well-known for his role as Kenneth Parcell on NBC's 30 Rock.

Our kids, who have never seen Glee or 30 Rock, enjoyed the characters just as much.  I think J is still quoting from the movie with H, this morning, and repeating over and over, "That movie was so funny!"

So in the end, we may have been bombarded with all kinds of positive messages, but the take-away from this movie is that it was funny and entertaining.  Getting a big smile out of the kids is worth something in itself.

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