When Wreck-It Ralph, villain of Fix-It Felix Jr, feels unappreciated in his own game, he travels to other games such as Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush in the hopes of getting respect. Along the way, he not only meets a young glitch not allowed to race in Sugar Rush but takes one of the villainous cy-bugs from Heroes Duty with him. Can Ralph find respect in his game while not only helping the young glitch become a racer, but stopping the evil cy-bug he released into the video game world?
First, I’d like to warn anyone reading this review that there are spoilers ahead. So, if you haven’t seen the movie and want to go in fresh, you might want to skip to the last paragraph. Anyway, this movie is the video game Toy Story where video game characters are revealed to be alive at Litwak’s arcade. Each game’s connected to Game Central Station through a plug system. However, if any of the games are unplugged, the world will be gone and, if the characters inside don’t get to Game Central Station in time, they will die. Which would create danger because arcades actually unplug their games every night in order to clean it but minor detail. However, if a game character dies outside of their game, they will not revive. While the movie has its own original characters, there are characters from other video games and retro games themselves that make a cameo appearance such as Sonic, Robotnik, Q’Bert and Tappers.
All right, I’ve explained the world of the game. Now it’s time to go in depth about the story and characters. Considering the title, it’s clear that the main character is Ralph. He plays the villain of Fix It Felix Jr., which is a game that plays out like the original Donkey Kong. In the game, Ralph lives on a stump that the construction team destroys to build Niceland Apartments. Ralph becomes so angry that he trashes the building and even throws out one of the Nicelanders. It’s up to Felix to use his magic hammer and fix the building that Ralph wrecked while dodging what Ralph throws at him. In the end, Felix gets a metal while the tenants throw Ralph into a mud pit. Unfortunately, when the game ends, the Nicelanders still treat Ralph like the villain he has to play, with the exception of Felix, and force Ralph to literally live in the dump. This has gotten so bad that Ralph even attends a group therapy session with the other villains and talks about abandoning his game which is known as going Turbo to the video game characters, something I will explain later. However, seeing the way Ralph’s treated by the Nicelanders, especially Gene, you can’t blame him for wanting to leave. Yet, instead of declaring to leave, Ralph makes a deal with Gene that, if he can get a medal then he can live in the penthouse.
Ralph does this by stealing the armor from one of the characters from Hero’s Duty, a first person shooter where you have to protect the world from cy-bugs, and goes in there in disguise. Yet I would like to point out that, after Ralph takes the medal from the game, he has no intention of abandoning his own. He just wanted a better life so badly that he temporarily went into another game and was going to come back with the medal he stole. Had one of the customers at the arcade not tried to play Fix-It Felix Jr. while Ralph was gone and Ralph not had trouble flying the ship, the game would have not gone out of order, nor would it have been in danger of being unplugged and he would’ve come back to his game with the metal instead of crash landing in Sugar Rush.
Sugar Rush is a racing game similar to Mario Kart where you can play one of nine characters and race through a world entirely made of candy. However, there are a total of fifteen racers and, in order to make the 9 playable characters for the day, they have to race before the game starts the next day and pay a fee of one golden coin to enter. This is the home of Vanellope, the glitch I mentioned in the first paragraph. All she has ever wanted to do was race but, because she is a glitch, the ruler of Sugar Rush, King Candy, declares that she’s not allowed to race. To make a bad situation worse, the other racers treat Vanellope like she’s a disease, destroying her car and making fun of her glitching which causes her to not only briefly lose her form but transport to another location. So, when Vanellope first meets Ralph, she behaves like a brat by making fun of him and then stealing his medal, which she uses it to pay the racer fee. Needless to say, Ralph is not happy about this and goes to track her down only to watch Vanellope getting bullied by the other racers and then pushed in the mud which is heartbreaking to see. Considering what usually happens to Ralph at the end of his game, you can imagine that he doesn’t take that well. So, in spite of Vanellope stealing his medal, he still defends her from the other racers. This proves that Ralph is actually a good guy as he chose to help Vanellope because it was the right thing to do. Though he and Vanellope get off on the wrong foot, they agree to team up so that Vanellope can race, and Ralph can get his medal back. While this was a mutually beneficial arrangement, these are two people who are treated like dirt in their original games because one is a villain, and the other is a glitch. Not just that but Vanellope, much like Ralph, is homeless. She has to live in a secret level that was never produced called Diet Cola Mountain because the other racers won’t accept her like how the Nicelanders in Ralph’s world won’t accept him. So, when Ralph not only builds Vanellope a car and a track to practice on, she’s so incredibly touched that she makes a medal for him out of candy. Which makes the next scene even more heartbreaking.
Before I explain what happens next, I want to talk to you about going Turbo. Years ago, Turbo was the main character of a pixelated racing game called TurboTime. This fictional game was the most popular game at the arcade and, as Felix says, Turbo loved the attention. Unfortunately, RoadBlasters, which is actually a real game, came to Litwak’s Arcade and stole Turbo’s thunder. Needless to say, that the narcissistic Turbo didn’t like it one bit. So, he invaded RoadBlasters and drove closer to the screen in a scene similar to when Samara walks out of the TV in The Ring. Only difference is, instead of walking out of the screen, Turbo crashed into the player car and shut down the game. This caused both games to be labeled as out of order and taken out of the arcade. Turbo himself turned into a cautionary tale of what happens when you go against the norm, which is why the villains at the therapy group try to persuade Ralph not to go Turbo.
However, what Ralph did is not the same. Yes, Ralph deliberately invaded Hero’s Duty but he just got sick of being treated like the mud the Nicelanders throw him into at the end of every game. So, he disguised himself and briefly went into the game to get a medal because he wanted a better life in his home game. Turbo, on the other hand, destroyed the lives of citizens in two different games because he didn’t like that another racing game was stealing his thunder. Instead of feeling any drop of remorse, he went over to Sugar Rush and ruined someone else’s life just to get his popularity back.
While many people assume Turbo died, he is very much alive only in a different game. As I said earlier, Turbo hacked the code in Sugar Rush and inserted himself into the game as King Candy. Vanellope, the supposed glitch, was not only one of the characters in the game, but the princess and rightful ruler of Sugar Rush. So, Turbo, wanting so badly to be in a popular racing game, took Vanellope’s place, kicked her out of her home and blocked out the memories of the other racers and citizens so they would forget who she was. The only reason King Candy made Vanellope a glitch in the first place was because he couldn’t delete her character. If Vanellope crosses the finish line, the game resets back to how it was before Turbo hacked into it. So, you can bet that he’s willing to do anything to keep Vanellope from racing, even getting the medal out of the game’s code and giving it to Ralph so that he’ll stop her from racing. However, the medal enough doesn’t stop Ralph. While Ralph, originally, was only helping Vanellope to get the medal, he and Vanellope bonded over being the pariah in their respective games. He genuinely wants to help Vanellope race so she can achieve her dream. Turbo decides to play this against Ralph by selling him a story about how Vanellope could glitch during the game causing a player to think something was wrong with it. Then Litwak would unplug the game and cause everyone to escape to the Game Central Station but Vanellope, being a glitch thanks to Turbo, wouldn’t be able to get out. I think Turbo’s told that story to the other racers, which is why they’re mean to her and are against Vanellope racing with them. Ralph hears this story and, fearing for Vanellope’s life, tries to explain what King Candy told him only for her to dismiss it. Then you have to watch Ralph destroy Vanellope’s car as she begs him to stop and then, at the end, calls Ralph the bad guy. Unless you have no heart, that scene will make you cry.
If that wasn’t enough, Ralph goes back home only to find out that his game’s getting unplugged and gets called out by Gene for abandoning it despite this being his and the Nicelanders’ fault for being mean to Ralph. Yet, Ralph does not blame this all on Gene. Instead, he apologizes and feels so terrible that he throws the medal he had worked so hard for at the screen. This is when he finally discovers the truth thanks to getting a glimpse of Sugar Rush, Vanellope is supposed to be a part of her game.
While Ralph and Vanellope are the major characters, they are not the only ones who play a key role in the movie. Felix, the star of Fix-It Felix Jr., goes to find Ralph after they try to get through a game without him only to realize the hard way that, without a villain to fight, their game is pretty much worthless. Which leads to their game going out of order and Felix going off to find Ralph after he hears that he’s in Hero’s Duty. Calhoun, the main character of Hero’s Duty whose job is to lead the player through a path and tell them to shoot down cy-bugs while leading them to the top of the point and getting a medal. The cy-bugs themselves are mindless creatures whose goal is to eat everything in sight and multiply. At the end of every game, a beacon shoots up from the mountain and, since light attracts cy-bugs, they immediately fly to the beacon and die. Needless to say, Calhoun’s not too happy when she hears that one of them could’ve gotten out thanks to Ralph. While they do team up to go into Sugar Rush, these characters have little in common other then they’re both the stars of their games and they have to go into Sugar Rush because that’s where their goal is.
I’ll admit, I was half expecting Felix to be the bad guy of the movie but, instead, he’s as genuinely nice as he’s created to be though a little oblivious. Felix is the only one in the game on good terms with Ralph but, at the same time, is afraid of getting on the bad side of the Nicelanders. When explaining what happened to Calhoun, he admits that he doesn’t know why Ralph abandoned them even though he was there when Ralph made the deal with Gene. Felix also functions as an audience surrogate, asking Calhoun what the cy-bugs are and what danger they could bring. During Felix’s time in Sugar Rush searching for Ralph, he gets a taste of what it’s like to be in Ralph’s shoes. He gets trapped in Nesquik sand and then has to be punched by Calhoun to get out, which I’ll explain later and it’s not as bad as it sounds. Then he gets rejected by Calhoun and, when talking to King Candy’s guard, immediately gets arrested without so much as an explanation. Unfortunately, Felix’s magic hammer can only fix things instead of breaking them, so he can’t bust out. Thankfully, when Ralph finds out that King Candy lied, he immediately goes to Felix and asks him to fix Vanellope’s car. Though not before hearing a lecture from Felix and a wrongful accusation from him about how Ralph has no idea what it’s like to be treated like the bad guy. That’s when Felix finally understands what Ralph was going through and why he left.
I’ll admit, it does seem like Felix should’ve been aware of this for a long time, but he is a bit stuck in his own head and, like Turbo, enjoys the privilege that comes with being the good guy of the video game. Unlike Turbo, Felix is content with what he has and is only uncomfortable with conflict. Which is partly why he doesn’t stick up for Ralph. Now, after experiencing what Ralph goes through every day, Felix finally understands why Ralph was so upset.
Calhoun, on the other hand, is the gruff soldier she was programmed to be. In Hero’s Duty, she acts as a guide to the first-person shooter, leading them through the game, telling them about the cy-bug infestation, where to shoot and when to shoot. Though she does tend to use ladies as an insult which shows a bit of misogyny on her part and, apparently, had her unform tailor made so that it would show off every curve of her body. However, I’m not surprised as the makers of a video game would design a woman character in a form-fitting outfit. Not only that, but it is common for corporations to think that, in order to make a strong woman, you have to turn them into a man with a woman’s body. Captain Marvel, the first woman superhero to have a movie in the MCU, is bereft of feminine qualities herself. Calhoun’s game is more modern than Felix’s as it has better graphics, better world-building and they took time to develop her character. Unfortunately, by developing her character, they gave her emotional scars that she could never heal from. Let me explain that Calhoun was not brought into the video game world with a blank slate, she was born with a tragic backstory about her fiancé getting killed by cy-bugs during their wedding day.
Despite this fiancé not existing, the memories feel real enough to Calhoun that his supposed death still haunts her which explains her hard personality. Calhoun goes into the game with Felix to stop the cy-bugs from not only taking over Sugar Rush, but from destroying the Game Central Station and getting out into the real world. Calhoun was originally designed to be a man, but the makers of the movie changed their mind and made her a woman. Then decided that, since she’s a woman and teamed up with a man, she and Felix have to be paired up despite not really having any chemistry. Other than being the object of Felix’s affection which, because of her programmed backstory, she rebuffs at first, Calhoun is the new girl who only got plugged in recently. So, she is one of the few people who doesn’t know what going Turbo means and functions as an audience surrogate to learn about Turbo. However, there’s also one scene that the movie only got away with because Calhoun’s a woman. Remember when I said that Calhoun had to punch Felix to get out of the Nesquik sand? There were Laffy Taffy vines above them that actually laughed and went down to their level whenever Calhoun hit him, something they discovered after Calhoun slapped Felix when he was freaking out so he could get a hold of himself, and the vines found it funny. Felix demands that Calhoun hit him, something she’s understandably uncomfortable with, so that the vines will come down to their level. So, she has to repeatedly hit Felix as he restores his face to normal with his magic hammer and the whole thing is just cringe. For those of you who might think I’m overreacting, imagine if the genders were reverse. That it was Felix hitting Calhoun over and over to make the vines laugh, lower down to their level and pull them back out. How well do you think that would be taken by the audience? What’s even worse is that anyone looking at them can tell that Calhoun is the physically stronger of the two and, honestly, I think she could beat him to death if she wanted to, which would also not be funny.
All of this leads up to the grand finale where Ralph and Felix rescue Vanellope from the dungeon and get her to the race just in time. During the race, Vanellope even discovers that what she thought was a glitch was actually a superpower by teleporting ahead of the other racers. Even when Vanellope’s at Turbo’s mercy in a scene that is truly shocking to the eyes, even if you saw it coming, she’s not rescued by Ralph. Vanellope uses her power to get herself away from Turbo and accidentally leaves him to be devoured by a cy-bug. However, it doesn’t end there. The cy-bugs interrupt the race and it’s up to Calhoun to get the citizens to safety and keep the cy-bugs at bay. This is when Vanellope being a glitch because of King Candy becomes the most heartbreaking. As King Candy explained to Ralph, Vanellope can’t leave her game because she’s a glitch. So, when Calhoun evacuates everyone out of Sugar Rush, Ralph grabs Vanellope in the hopes of getting her to safety only for a force field to keep her in her game. Seeing Vanellope calmly tell Ralph to leave while he tries as hard as he can to pull her into Game Central Station can really tug at your heartstrings. That’s when Calhoun’s words about how they need a beacon to distract and kill the cy-bugs comes into play as Ralph risks his life to use his wrecking powers to crack open the Diet Cola Mountain and make that very beacon. Even Turbo turning into a cy-bug due to cy-bugs becoming what they eat and holding Ralph captive, forcing him to watch his friends die, instead of giving up, Ralph recites the motto of the villain meeting he went to and breaks open the top of the volcano, creating a beacon for the cy-bugs to fly into and risking his life to save his friends. Thankfully, Vanellope teleports over to Ralph and saves him. There’s just one thing I don’t get. If Turbo wrote himself as part of the code for Sugar Rush, then shouldn’t he have spawned back to life? I know that Vanellope crosses the finish line later and resets the game, but Turbo died before the game got reset. So, he might still be alive, and I bet I’m not the only one who’s thought that. I might even be able to find a fanfic about that if I search hard enough.
In the end, Ralph accepts his role as the villain and Felix realizes that he and the Nicelanders need to appreciate Ralph more, something I think that Felix told the Nicelanders when he came back. Vanellope’s game resets back to how it was before Turbo meddled with it and becomes the princess only to revoke the title for the more gender-neutral president. I know that I should talk about how sexist it is that Vanellope’s a princess rather than a queen but, since Sugar Rush is a video game that’s been around for a few years, it makes sense that they would design a princess. Plus, keep in mind, these characters are all children. They might have parents that were programmed into their brains much like Calhoun’s dead fiancé was programmed into hers. Then again, I doubt the makers of Sugar Rush were as deep as the makers of Hero’s Duty. Speaking of Calhoun, she’s the only one of the four who doesn’t seem to have a major or even minor character arc. Despite being programmed with a tragic backstory, her resolution is accepting Felix as her boyfriend and then marrying him. Nothing about her coming to terms with the fact that the fiancé whose death broke her was not real. I say that he’s not real because, if he was then, according to the rules of the game, her fiancé would’ve responded after the cutscene played. Since he’s nowhere in sight, it’s not possible for him to be real. Even when you acknowledge that, the romance she has with Felix seems forced. Sure, they give reasons why Felix likes her, but it’s never really explained why Calhoun returns his feelings other than one flashback she has hinting that her fiancé might have been similar to Felix. The father/daughter relationship between Ralph and Vanellope felt more real to me because they actually bonded over shared experiences, helping one another and giving each other a true friend when they needed one most. In the end, while Ralph’s role in his game hasn’t changed, he still treasures the medal Vanellope made for him and smiles as he sees Vanellope in her game. To Ralph, the greatest reward was that he helped Vanellope achieve her dream which is what makes him a true good guy.
Before I wrap up my review, I’d like to talk about one minor but important detail. While the main setting is inside the world of the video games, the movie occasionally shows us the players in the arcade particularly a girl who regularly frequents there. Which, as a girl gamer myself, I was actually happy to see that and not have it be portrayed as a big deal. Though there’s one scene that really sticks with me, where the girl sees two boys playing Sugar Rush and asks if she could play next. Instead, they blow her off and say that they’re going to play all nine racers. If you have been to an arcade, you either met that player or you are that player. I know I’m the former as I remember visiting an arcade and wanting to play this underwater game but couldn’t because a young boy and an adult man took up both seats the entire time I was there.
This movie is creative, heartbreaking and stars a genuine good guy. I give it 10 out of 10; a must watch Disney hit. Let me know whether you agree or disagree with me in the comments. Also, feel free to request your own review in the comments, send it to my email, or send it to me on Discord at suburbantimewaster#8733.