In a decade that has already seen the likes of Despicable Me (2010) and Megamind (2010) explore the idea of what would happen if in a battle between good and bad, what would happen if the bad guy had a chance to be the good guy for once? Well, the Walt Disney Company explore that idea further in their latest blockbuster Wreck-It Ralph.
Beginning in 1982 (i.e. 30 years prior to the film’s premise), the Grand Opening of Litwak’s Arcade sees the creation of several games including Fix-It Felix Jr. of which our ‘hero’, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) plays the role of the villain. After 30 years of smashing things only to be foiled by Felix (Jack McBrayer) who then gets a medal, Ralph grows tired of being the bad guy and hopes to one day be a good guy. The other video game villains (including Bowzer, Clyde and Doctor Eggman) understand Ralph’s feelings but warn him against going through with his intentions.
After being shunned and ridiculed by the other characters in Fix-It Felix Jr., Ralph finally runs away from his own game and sets out to win a medal, unaware that Fix-It Felix Jr. will be shut down without him. An attempt to win a medal by sneaking into the shooting game ‘Hero’s Duty’ leads to Ralph being berated by the no-nonsense Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and attacked by a swarm of Cy-Bugs, one of which chases him out of the game.
Ralph (and the Cy-Bug) finally ends up in a Super Mario Kart style game called ‘Sugar Rush’. The Cy-Bug escapes but that is the least of Ralph’s worries as his medal is stolen by Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) a ‘glitch’ character. When Vanellope uses Ralph’s medal to enter the upcoming Sugar Rush Kart Race, Ralph has no choice but to help her to build a kart to compete with if he is to get his precious medal back.
As if things were not already complicated enough for Ralph, he also has to deal with the scheming ruler of ‘Sugar Rush’, King Candy (Alan Tudyk) who wants Ralph and Vanellope out-of-the-way for his own personal gain. At the same time, Felix runs into trouble of his own after going after Ralph and encountering Calhoun. Matters are complicated further when the Cy-Bug multiplies and prepares to take-over ‘Sugar Rush’.
On the whole, it is much easier to say that Ralph is not so much the bad guy despite being portrayed as the bad guy, more of the mis-understood guy (trust me, I know what it is like to be mis-understood). All Ralph really wants is to prove he can be a good guy, given the chance. Indeed after he runs away from his own game, the other characters finally realise how much they really need him, in spite of Ralph being the bad guy. Of course when Ralph enters the ‘Sugar Rush’ domain and meets Vanellope, he is quick to dismiss her as annoying, only to discover that she too is treated like an outcast by her fellow characters for being a glitch. This is almost certainly where Ralph starts to show that he really does have some good in him and on the whole, he is portrayed as a proper no-nonsense kind of character as he quickly and rightfully dis-trusts King Candy for most of the film.
On the whole, the film is a homage to the golden age of arcade games before games-consoles took over. It explores a possibility that even Pixar has not considered yet. The film feels like a cross between Tron (1982) and what could have been a Pixar film if the style of animation is anything to go by in places. The ‘Sugar Rush’ domain is especially intriguing as everything is made of confectionery to an extent that would put the Chocolate Room in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) to shame.
In the end, what the film is really trying emphasise is that just Ralph is portrayed as a bad guy, does not mean he is a bad guy inside for he at least knows of the importance of helping others and especially those who are less fortunate than him. He also ultimately learns that there are some characters out there who are much worse than him when it comes to being the bad guy, some of whom are destined never to reform and do not intend to. Wreck-It Ralph of course is different in this instance and he knows it and through his friendship with Vanellope, he finally learns to accept that which just goes to show anyone can be a good person if the chance is there and they are willing to take it.