Posted on 11/04/12 07:21 PM
That's One Overloaded Circuit
To be perfectly honest, I don't play a lot of video games. My mother used to be really good at Frogger, believe it or not, but I've never owned a gaming console in my life. When I go to anything arcade-like, I play skeeball or pinball. I've watched various friends play video games, but I hardly play any myself. (Well, nothing much anyone has heard of other than game after game of Civilization.) I recognized perhaps half of the characters who were given cameos in the movie, though Graham and I argued over whether two women in ballgowns in the background at one point were Princesses Peach and Daisy from the Mario franchise or else Princesses Aurora and Belle from the Disney Princesses franchise. While the Disney Princesses have appeared in video games, I'm not sure they've appeared in the right kind. However, no one else seems to have noticed them, so I don't know who's right.
I must admit that at some point during the movie, I started hearing the plot summary in a Werner Herzog voice, but I will spare you that here. The movie opens on the thirtieth anniversary of the game Fix-It Felix, Jr., in which Ralph (John C. Reilly) destroys an apartment building, after which Felix (Jack McBrayer) fixes it. Over and over again. For thirty years, Ralph has been tossed off the roof of the building and into the mud at the end of the game. He's a little tired of it. Worse, even after closing time, the residents of the building treat him like an outcast, and he lives in a dump. A session of a support group for villains does nothing. The residents throw Felix a party, and Ralph isn't invited. Finally, they tell him that he can come when he has a medal. In frustration, Ralph decides to play another game and win a medal there. He gets one in Hero's Duty, but afterward, he is thrown into Sugar Rush, a kids' racing game. Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitch in that game, steals his medal, and things get worse from there.
Normally, I am kind of irritated by the current trend for celebrity voice casting. Acting and voice acting are two different skill sets, and celebrities are taking over all the good roles. However, I do think John C. Reilly did a fine job as the frustrated Ralph. Alan Tudyk plays the character of King Candy, a role that would have gone to Ed Wynn once upon a time. Or at least that seems to be who Tudyk is imitating for large amounts of the movie. Jane Lynch isn't bad as Calhoun, the hard-bitten soldier from Hero's Duty. The big problem, though, is that I just don't like Sarah Silverman. I never have, and nothing in this movie makes me likely to start now. While it could be argued that this is as much the writing as Sarah Silverman, the character was written for her. It's based on her stage persona. A milder version of the character voiced by someone less annoying would have improved the movie a great deal.
In fact, Silverman is responsible, or at least her character is, for much of the worst of the movie. The plot of the movie is clever. Most of the characters are interesting, and when they aren't likeable, it's for a reason. As in, because they're villains. I think we're supposed to like Vanellope, but I think she derails the movie at several points. She takes away from the mostly clever humour of the movie--you have a movie that both makes Q*Bert jokes and plays on how "duty" sounds like "doody." Her persistent insulting of the deceptively gentle Ralph doesn't make you want to see her win. After all, the whole point is that people are picking on Ralph for doing his job, and that he turns out to be nicer than the so-called "Nicelanders." Sure, Vanellope has her own problems, but that doesn't excuse her treatment of Ralph. The fact that her name is a play on the mispronunciation of "vanilla" that bothers me so much doesn't help, either.
I must admit that there is one thing about the movie's theology, if you like, that kind of bothers me. The characters all act as if unplugging a game results in the death of all the characters. Well, they have to, in order to give the whole thing any weight. And in practical terms, they may well have a point, for all younger people with great wads of disposable income are buying cabinet games these days. Certainly they don't exist so long as the power is off, and it may be a little much for them to realize that they'll just come back to life again if it's plugged in somewhere else. It's also true that there's no guarantee it will be plugged in somewhere else. However, there are a lot of cabinet games that may well be plugged in but still aren't powered up at the moment. It seems unlikely to me that this half-retro arcade (a thirty-year-old game and one plugged in only a week previous) has its own generator. Where do power outages fit into the theology of the characters? Perhaps if this gets a regular series, which wouldn't be the worst idea, they'll tell us.