Thursday, November 29, 2012

In what will likely be the last entry for this month...

Well...unless I get a MASSIVE left-field shot before tomorrow night.

So, I know I've been behind on the joys of the random pile.  I mean, last entry was a start, but even I'm starting to miss the little mutants.  Rest assured, however, we're going to be bringing some of them back to light again and getting back into dusting off the lesser knowns again...
...starting in the next entry.

What can I say?  It's been a pretty active season of getting to theaters for me.  This is a rarity, so I'll ask that you bear with me through it, since it really does feel like it'd be a waste not to offer some $0.02 on the offerings.

Which brings us to this week's entry.

I have to admit...I'm not really feeling this Odd Couple remake just now, but let's see how it goes.

Well, so far this season, we've done arthouse, we've done blockbuster, and we've done blood-soaked martial arts revenge.  What else is there to cover?

...well, I suppose we should get something in for the family quotient again.  Lord knows we'll be inundated there soon enough, as is standard procedure for this time of year.  Luckily, this week's entry is actually a pretty good one.

The whole movie's animated like this - I promise.
...OK, so I shot myself in the foot on that one by showing the other screencap, but it was worth it.

When Disney first announced Wreck-It Ralph as an upcoming project, I admit I shared some of the initial internet skepticism.  Well, OK, that's not entirely true.  My first encounter with the movie came care of a teaser poster with no title and simply the 8 bit version of Ralph's head.  So for a while, my view of the film was "So...what the Hell is this for, anyway?"  When the teaser hit the web, however, my view was a bit uncertain.  I liked what I was seeing in the trailer, but there was still that lingering nagging voice that was asking if the gamers were just getting played.  I mean, I've got nothing against a film sneaking in some references, so long as I know they're being done for a reason beyond just "The audiences should love this!"  That was the concern a lot of people had at first in this case - were the guest appearances by the likes of Zangief, M. Bison, Q-Bert (2 out of the 3 in an entertaining 'bad guy support group' that actually holds up as a joke beyond just familiar faces,) and others actually there for anything more than going  "Look at this gamers!  You like this stuff, right?"?

Seriously, for as concerned as people were, this scene IS pretty priceless.

Fortunately, a lot of the positive buzz had heard afterwards had me willing to stifle this suspicion long enough to give the film a watch.  I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised.  I'm not gonna say it's anything major or gamechanging, but it's still a pretty enjoyable film.  The story itself is, admittedly, kind of standard, albeit the setting makes up for that.  It's your classic 'outsider is tired of being seen as the bad guy (in this case, literally, thanks to Ralph essentially being akin to classic Donkey Kong) and tries to change his image, with mixed results.'  In this case, as the advertising shows, the classic storyline is played out within a video arcade - more directly by the games themselves.  This is the area where the script makes up for the somewhat cliched premise - the world of the arcade is actually surprisingly well thought out in terms of the rules of how everything works.  Each world has its own loose rules based on its games, and actions therein are handled as such, while there are also an over-arcing set of rules for game characters in general, relating to many of the interactions that occur over the course of the movie.  It's the kind of thing that takes the familiar story and manages to help provide just enough interesting twists to keep the plot from feeling too by-the-numbers.

The other thing that works in this regard, of course, is the characters.  In this regard, I have to hand it to John C. Reilly as the titular Ralph.  With this, he's confirmed he's on the list of actors who can actually act behind a mic as well as they can in front of a camera (I know, this doesn't sound like much now, but trust me.  There are actors who can, and have, bombed a voice over performance.)  Additionally, in this case, Ralph isn't played up as an entirely comedic role, but actually is genuinely pretty sympathetic in the way he's written and played.  The supporting cast, likewise, all prove capable of holding their own with just their voices as well.  It's hard really picking others among this cast to say really went above and beyond here, because it's not like there's any real weak points to hold against.  Oddly, the one other that really stood out in this case, in part because he wasn't immediately recognizable off the bat was Alan Tudyk as the film's somewhat antagonistic King Candy, channeling a healthy dose of Ed Wynn into the role.  In some ways, this hard time nailing individually strong roles over others is itself pretty encouraging.  It's also on this note that I have to commend the decision of the filmmakers to have the cast all recording their dialogue together rather than in separate booths.  This leads to some genuinely great bits of interaction among the cast, particularly between Reilly and Sarah Silverman sometimes devilish kid racer Vanellope von Schweetz.  For only offering up their voices, the two really do have a great chemistry here, even among the already pretty strong dynamics everyone has performance-wise.

It's a like a more heartwarming, less bloodsport-oriented Master Blaster.  Also, there's a clear answer to who runs their Bartertown.

The animation, as an extension of the world building, does help carry the setting well here.  I'm not gonna say it's anything jaw-dropping or redefining what animation can do, but it still creates an interesting look into the other side of the screens.  In particular, the animators make for a nice touch on looking at the differing sides of the screen at points - especially with older games like the fictional Fix-It Felix Jr (where Ralph and his 'good guy' (Jack MacBrayer) reside) and the real Tapper.  In such cases, there are scenes where the film's more standard animation style is eschewed to depict the events being carried out in the traditional gaming style we'd see as the player.  It's a nice little sight gag, and one they thankfully don't over play their hand on.  That said, most of the other games we tend to see more behind the screens, and even with that challenge, the animators still found a way to keep each world particularly distinct - Fix-It Felix Jr is a very 'clean' look, translating the older animation into easily cleaned settings and people who genuinely 'hop' from place to place rather than full walking; the pseudo-FPS Hero's Duty is very much the classic 'dark and techno heavy' sci-fi shooter, complete with the giant insect foes; and the racing game Sugar Rush, that makes up much of the plot, is a brightly colored candy land that looks akin to Willy Wonka on crank.  Interestingly, we also see these settings built up as something that can, and as the characters are concerned, do live in.  It's a surprising attention to detail - especially given the nature of some of the settings they're playing with.  Again, it won't change the way we see animation per se, but the fact is it still does a great job of fleshing out the gaming world it uses to tell its story.

On his own arguably less disastrous trip to the game, Felix learns from Calhoun (Jane Lynch) why a bringing a hammer to a gunfight is arguably worse than a knife.  At least, in the kid friendly sense.

All things considered, this film did surpass what I was expecting.  It's not gonna change how you live, love, or look at the movies...but then, there's not a lot of movies that can be guaranteed to that, and they're never consistent from person to person.  On its own, however, it takes what could have been a VERY forgettable piece that could have just tried to mine gamers for a few bucks, and actually turned it into a rather fun little story.  It's one we've all heard before, sure, but it's done with enough heart here and enough thought put into the setting to make up for any shortcomings to make for a still worthwhile time.

OK...and THIS time, I promise, we'll be back to the craziness in the days to come.  As well as a new project for the start of the month (no, it's not going to be 25 days of holiday threshold still has its limits.)

So keep an eye out.  Things to be done yet.


  1. Alan Tudyk played King Candy?!? You've got to be shitting me!

    1. That was actually pretty accurate to my own response when I found out. Stuck around through the credits trying to ID a couple of the voices that sounded familiar (King Candy in particular)
      When Tudyk's name came up, there was that moment of " fucking way."

      After verifying it again after the fact, I've gotta hand it to the guy...his voice has some flex to it.