What I’m Watching: Wreck-It Ralph

So, yesterday I went to see this movie. It’s great. You should go see it before I complain about it. If  you’re spoiler-sensitive, don’t “Read More” just yet. This entry will wait.

This movie won’t.

When I entered the theater, I’d alrady built the movie up a ton. Wreck-It Ralph delivered. Simply put, it’s an incredibly well-crafted movie; funny at times, tense others, heartbreaking at still others.

The story follows Wreck-It Ralph, bad guy of platformer Fix-It Felix Jr. Ralph’s a bad guy that, after 30 years, is sick of being a bad guy. Everyone in his game treats him like crap. It’s so bad that he’s joined a bad guy support group starring video game villain icons. The exact moment I added this movie to my to-watch list was when I saw the support group clip in the trailer.

Things boil over when no one invites him to the 30th anniversary of his game. He invites himself, unintentionally wrecks things, inarticulately expresses his unhappiness, and is taunted into trying to get a medal for himself. By this point, I’m on board for the ride. Ralph’s quest to become the Good Guy has begun!

I left the theater wholly satisfied. As I said, it’s a great movie. But by the time we’d started the car, I’d found nits to pick. Below, the positives and negatives of Wreck-It Ralph:

[Positive] Video-Game References

Oh man. I mean, just look at this:

How can any self-respecting gamer not squee in delight at that? Best off, the references never feel invasive.

[Negative] Doesn’t Visit Many Worlds

I really wish that Ralph had visited more worlds, but pretty much once he arrives in Sugar Rush! he stays there until the end of the movie. I honestly expected more of a wild and roughshod rampage through gaming, instead of such a tight focus on a small number of worlds. However, logistically speaking, the movie took three distinct art styles and generated all the assets for them. I’d rather three fully-realized worlds than seventy half-rendered ones.

[Positive] Portrayal of Women

Female readers, tell me if I’m off-base, but I felt that this movie portrayed women really well. First off, you’ve got certified badass Calhoun.

Seen here, looking like her voice actress.

To the adorable Vanellope:

I suppose for the sake of argument that the racer girls’ treatment of Vanellope doesn’t make for a positive portrayal of how women treat other women, but I guess it felt so damn real it didn’t raise any hairs on the back of my neck. I’ve seen girls act like that all the time, and while it’s a harsh truth, if it’s the truth, you gotta give it a pass.

[Negative] Portrayal of Gay Men

Hey there!~

Look, I get that this is a kid’s movie. And since it’s a kid’s movie, technically none of the characters have a sexual orientation unless explicitly stated otherwise (Calhoun and Fix-It Felix’s love affair.)

But face it, when a character jokes that, “It’s okay, he only glazed me,” you can’t hide behind the kids-movie smokescreen anymore.

King Candy’s fruitier than a piña colada, and I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is that the only LGBT character’s a Depraved Homosexual. King Candy turns out to not just be misguided as we thought, but actually a super-villain the entire time. Creating a corollary link between “gay” and “evil” is pretty horrible when there’s no countervailing positive example in the movie at all.

[Positive] The Story and the Visuals

Just look at that trailer! Look how gorgeously rendered it is! Imagine the concept! How could you go wrong? Even when the screenwriter projected the villain’s identity ahead a full act, the big unveil surprised me because the movie’d so fully immersed me. This movie dropped my willing suspension of disbelief and just made sweet love to my imagination, and few enough stories know how to hit my sweet spot like that.

[Negative] Ending Needed Improvement

At finale, Ralph makes peace with life as a bad guy, because “the world needs bad guys too”.

I’m calling the writers out on this bullshit. In the trailer it says Ralph wants to become a good guy, and while he’s definitely a Big Damn Hero by the end of it, he’s sure not the good guy. He returns to his shit job, but it’s all okay, because people treat him better now!

There are a couple things wrong with this. One’s the possibility that the other characters in Fix-It Felix Jr. learned nothing from Ralph’s dissatisfaction and hero’s journey. They’re simply being nice because if Ralph’s no-show for another game, they’ll be shut down. Ralph’s implicitly holding them hostage, so there’s something horrible about the fact they’re nice to him now. If I were them, after that scare I’d be pretty complacent. In essence, Ralph’s holding a loaded gun to their head, even if the voiceover doesn’t suggest that.

Second’s the fact that Ralph didn’t accomplish his goal. I anticipate arguments like: “Ralph just wanted to be accepted!”

That’s bullshit. The movie’s saying, “If your job blows, suck it up, cupcake. It’s your perspective that needs changing, not your job.” This isn’t just terrible advice, it’s the worst advice I’ve heard since my cousin told me that girls like having caterpillars in their hair.

What do you mean, ladies don’t dig creepy things on their scalp?

At the risk of sounding like a butt-hurt masculist (because, no sarcasm, the last thing we need are more men whining about how hard we have it), the writers are sending a really, really shitty message to guys, and not so much the same message to girls.

The message, apparently: “Girls, even if you’re a scruffy, sweatshirt-wearing ragamuffin, it’s totes cool, because you’re really a princess in disguise! But guys, if you don’t like your job, it’s you that needs to change, not it.”

If you’re confused why I hate “suck it up and deal with it”, I already covered it here. #4 on the list. I won’t belabor the issue more.

So here’s my better ending. My ending keeps the girls’ ending, because I really saw no issue there. But in my ending, Wreck-It Ralph gets his own game, titled Wreck-It Ralph. He’s a bad-guy hero like Wario, and the gamers love him. I’d rather play as a human wrecking ball than as Fix-It Felix. I mean, That’s pretty much the whole premise of the Grand Theft Auto series, isn’t it?

Sound like your kind of movie? Buy it here.

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