My 8 and 10-year-old sons enjoy playing "Mario Brothers" and "Madden Football" on the Wii every chance they get, as do most of their friends. So with a video game movie like Wreck-It Ralph
out, I knew exactly which two people I'd take to see it. Unfortunately, even with a so-so plot (which is somewhat redeemed by the stunning visuals), many of the references are intended for Generation X viewers, leaving kids today left in the dark.
How many kids still go to arcades regularly? The stage is set in one, where for 30 long years the protagonist, Ralph, has lived dutifully inside Fix-It Felix
, playing the archetypal video game bad guy. He wrecks everything in sight so that Felix can mend even the biggest mess with his golden hammer. On-screen and off, Felix is the hero of the specific world they share, and Ralph has grown tired of always being the oafish bad guy nobody wants around. Ralph believes if he earns a hero's medal from a neighboring game he will change the Fix-It Felix
community's impression of him as a villain.
Although it's set in an alternate, video game world, I still had to suspend belief on an even more basic level. It's not believable that the arcade game Fix-It Felix
is at risk of having its plug pulled forever because Ralph is visiting other games and isn't there to do his wrecking job, leaving his home dangerously out of order. In three years, the game has never been out of order before? No one has ever said a kind word to Ralph? He may be a bumbling, clumsy guy, but a villain? And why would he go to such lengths to get a medal that he has to tell lies to get? Why is there no mention of the way kids play video games today, either on computers or television screens? Instead, we see human children interacting with technology only through a two-way arcade game window. The last 20 years of technology have been completely left out.
The special effects are the best part of Wreck-It Ralph
. When Ralph enters different arcade games like Hero's Duty
(a welcome nod to the current "Call of Duty" games), each game's thematic world is captured. In Hero's Duty
, rock music and dark colors set the intense mood. In the game Sugar Rush
, which is a cross between Candy Land
and Mario Kart
, Oreo cookie guards chant "O-RE-O" to the marching tune "O-E-O," and Laffy Taffy makes a sweet cameo. The audience is hungry at times like this for anything current, and that is what gets the most laughs.
But there isn't enough of this kind of familiarity.
I appreciated seeing old friends like Pac-Man and Frogger on the screen more than my young, 21st Century, Mario Brother-loving sons did. Apparently steep copyright fees excluded the modern, well-known characters kids today enjoy. Therefore, Wreck-It Ralph
relies on past video games and ones that have been fictionalized for the movie (marketers are clever, though - plans are already underway to bring some of these fictional games, like Sugar Rush
, to reality).
"What's a glitch?" my son wanted to know after watching Wreck-It Ralph
. This is the nickname a key character gets because of flawed wiring - a short circuit leaves her fading in and out against her will, something kids from the 1980s were familiar with, but not kids today.
Yet, it is ultimately when Ralph meets this "Glitch," a 9-year-old wannabe race car driver, that the two misfits plot how to be viewed for their strengths instead of their weaknesses. This is also the point where themes of friendship, loyalty, and courage come to the forefront and the movie's sluggish beginning and middle finally wake up.Wreck-It Ralph
is rated PG for some violence and loud noises, crude humor, sarcastic language, and fast-paced action. There are also several scary scenes with monsters that may frighten young children.
The only reason viewers with kids over 7 should flock to the theater to see Wreck-It Ralph
is for the visuals. Otherwise, wait for it to come out on video.
Starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
Running Time: 1 hr. 41 min.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.