Review – When Games Used to be Games… (“Wreck-It-Ralph,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”)

It’s no wonder that ever since John Lasseter of PIXAR took over Disney’s animation dept., their movies have improved dramatically both in story content and look. Using his formula of “make ’em laugh; make ’em cry”, this CGI animated tale of an 80’s video game character going rogue is no exception.

“Wreck-it Ralph” is a old school 80’s video game inside Litwak’s Arcade and Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain. He’s 9ft tall with huge sledgehammer arms & hands that smash the Nicelander’s apartment bldg. But Fix-it Felix, Jr. (voiced by “30 Rock’s” Jack McBrayer) always saves the day with his golden hammer and always gets a shiny hero’s medal for his talents. This really grates on Ralph, especially after 30 years (“Where’s MY medal?”) and, after an anniversary party goes horribly wrong, off he goes into Game Central to win a medal of his own to prove his worth to the others.

Bad move, Ralph! Game jumping (or “going Turbo”) is strictly prohibited!.

He sneaks onto a first-person shooter game (“Hero’s Duty”), a Cy-Bug killing game run by Calhoun (Jane Lynch voiced) a hard-core, blond-haired, no-nonsense sergeant. Ralph inadvertently wins his hero’s medal, but gets blasted into the world of “Sugar Rush”, a candy-filled, eye-popping, kiddie race-car game.

Ralph meets a seriously cute, but hopelessly mischievous and annoying little girl called Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman voiced), aka “Glitch” (because she ‘pixelates’ out of phase when stressed). She uses Ralph’s medal to enter a race and Ralph is none too happy about it, until he learns that she’s just as much an outcast there as he is back home.

King Candy (Alan Tudyk, sounding just like Ed Wynn–look it up), who rules Sugar Rush, wants her & Ralph locked up, but poses a deal to Ralph to betray Glitch and keep her from racing…but why? Is there a secret he’s hiding? Meanwhile, Fix-it Felix, Jr. has joined forces with Calhoun in searching for Ralph to get him back on his game board before the arcade owner pulls the plug on their machine!

Oh, and did I mention that Sugar Rush is about to be destroyed by an apocalyptical hoard of Cy-Bugs that Ralph accidentally brought with him?

Needless to say, there’s a lot of story going on here with “Wreck-it Ralph”, thanks to the rich screenplay of Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston. Rich Moore, who also directed episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama, keeps things moving along, while the ol’ Pixar formula tugs at the heart strings for a sentimental ending that’ll leave you smiling…and wiping your eyes. The CGI here is nothing less than breath-taking with an explosion of color and HD sharpness. It’s pure eye-candy, but eye-candy with a great story backing it up…and THAT makes this movie a cut above the others.

AND for you video gamers out there (especially those you from the golden age) keep an eye out Pac-man, Q-bert, Frogger, Sonic, and a plethora of other game characters from the 80’s & 90’s.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD (2010)

I LOVE this movie! Seriously underrated and wildly imaginative, this is what would happen if a video game/comic book was part of real life.

Michael Cera is Scott Pilgrim, an introverted and insecure schlub that is also a bass guitarist for a punk/new wave band called “Sex Bob-omb”. He is dating a saccharine-sweet high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), much to disapproval of his band mates.

While playing in a battle of the bands, Scott falls for magenta-haired and enigmatic Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Smitten, Scott dumps Knives (who goes ballistic-crazy) and, while fighting one of Ramona’s “evil exe’s” he soon leans that, in order for them to date seriously, he must defeat ALL of her seven “evil exes” for them to keep dating!

Scott tries to get advice from his gay roommate, Wallace (Kieran Culkin), but nothing helps. Looks like he’ll have to fight to prove his love to Ramona. And fight he does! Chris Evans and Brandon Routh, to name just two, but the REAL fun is watching the fights, as no two are shot the same. Each one has their own unique style and direction…and each ends with a familiar video game winning chime, bonus points floating on screen, and gold coins spraying everywhere…and everyone acting as if this was the norm!

This is one fun movie to watch with nods to the audience, sight gags, clever voice-overs, comic-book overlays, smash-cuts, animation, crazy music battles, and NO adherence to any rules of film making. It IS a video game/comic book come to life!

The ending, with a climatic sword fight between Scott and Gideon “G-Man” Graves (Jason Schwartzman), is wicked cool and reminiscent of “The Matrix”, but without all the confusion. A ridiculously funny and refreshing screenplay by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright (who also directed and produced) and based on the graphic novel series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. I highly recommend renting this movie and see what great movie making is all about. Netflix & Blockbuster.com

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