This movie holds a special place on my shelf because, by association, two alumni from my high school and college worked on this film. One was a supervising animator and the other as an animator. So one day in our traditional animation class last year (when I was majoring in computer animation), we took a field trip to the movie theater to watch this film. It is only one of a select few films that I have seen in a theater more than once.
A villain wants to reform his ways after being shunned by his game friends and sets off to gain their trust.
This is a well-made film both in animation and storytelling. I did not see this in 3D when it was in theaters and I think I still made the right choice. The dimness would have darkened the sugary-sweet world of Sugar Rush. Even then, the only 3D that I could imagine that would fit would be in the end credits sequence.
The animation is remarkable. Seeing the characters from Fix-it Felix Jr. in a three-dimensional form move like their two-dimensional representation during regular hours left us guessing how exactly they did that. It’s still magical to watch. The environments are structured just like a video game environment from each era. The lighting even fits with each game.
For the story, it’s a hero’s journey where the hero is the villain of the game. Now, I’ve heard some complaints that once Ralph enters Sugar Rush and meets Vanellope it goes downhill. I disagree. It is part of the journey. Actually, I give the story some credit for actually having a side character with a disability/whatever you want to call it. It still hurts to watch the other racers wreck the cart early on in the film.
The villain reveal is still clever without feeling like you’ve been cheated or missed something. There were clues that hinted about the villain but when the reveal happened, you are pleasantly surprised.
The use of purple in King Candy’s wardrobe plays with the dual association. Purple can be used for royalty (ergo the “King” title) or, like I mentioned in the review of Fur, death as seen in the King’s final form during the boss battle. If you pay attention to both cart-wrecking scenes, there is a shade of purple, as if the cart dies.
With all these good points, there were some minor detractors. The product placement is clever in parts. The Subway placement (if you could even find it) blends in to the environment in the real world. If it blends in that much, why not make up a fake brand? The Mentos, Nesquik, and Oreo placement, even if it elicited a groan from the first instance, fit in the world of Sugar Rush because of the candy theme. Though, the real world Nesquik tie-in had some issues as some cans had salmonella, mainly the ones with the movie art on it, as seen here. Art imitates life.
When the film came out, it was almost one month after the big “Disney buys Lucasfilm” deal. Hearing the Darth Vader soundbite, one guy in the theater leaned over, whispering and wondering whether or not that was intentional. I have no clue but since then, that particular joke has now fallen into stale territory.
I do give the film credit for making a consistently-themed film down to the last logo as it glitches and transforms into a kill screen. There were even online trailers posed as ads from each year the three featured games were released (Fix-it Felix Jr., Sugar Rush, Hero’s Duty). Clever indeed.
For what it’s worth, it’s an enjoyable film that is stunning in visuals and story. If you’re a video game fan, there’s enough in-jokes and references to satisfy, at least as many that can be in a PG Disney film. Sit back and enjoy the ride.