“Wreck-It Ralph”: levels of fun for families with a bonus for young girls

Disney has created quite a roster of Bad Guys that leave even us grown-ups checking under our beds at night sometimes. I wouldn’t want to come across Jafar, Ursula or Scar even on their nicest days. But sometimes the Bad Guy isn’t always such a bad guy.

In Disney’s latest release “Wreck-It Ralph“, an arcade game villain struggles with his role as always being the bad guy. Every day when Litwak’s arcade opens and a kid places a quarter in the machine, Ralph goes to work, smashing and destroying a high-rise apartment building. Then the game’s hero Fix-It Felix comes along to repair the destruction Ralph has caused. The building’s residents praise Felix and throw Ralph in a pile of mud at the end of each game. After the arcade closes each night, Ralph is shunned by the other game characters and sleeps in a dump of bricks.

Not surprisingly, Ralph craves change – and so would I if I slept in a pile of bricks every night. As is human nature, Ralph just wants to be valued and appreciated, even on an 8-bit level. So he heads to Game Central Station to jump games and win a medal to prove he is so much more than a Bad Guy.

The two games Ralph visits, “Hero’s Duty” and “Sugar Rush” couldn’t be more different. One is a pretty intense first person shooter style game and the other looks like Mario Kart got a makeover from Willy Wonka’s daughter. But as different as these two games are, they both tie into our November cover story about raising confident girls.

In “Hero’s Duty”, Ralph meets Sgt. Calhoun, voiced by Jane Lynch. Calhoun, the main character of the game, is a strong leader faced with tough decisions in a war zone setting. But she’s also presented as attractive and a love interest in the movie. Calhoun makes sure to protect her friends and her troops, but she also doesn’t hide that she’s a female.

Vanellope von Schweetz finds Ralph when he crashes in “Sugar Rush” (no pun intended). A 9-year-old who is an outsider in her game as well, she and Ralph can relate and, after a small misunderstanding, become friends. Vanellope is unable to become a racer in “Sugar Rush” because she is a glitch in the game. (Spoiler Alert) When she crosses the finish line, the game resets and she is restored as the game’s main character, a princess. Vanellope chooses instead to turn her kingdom into a democracy, appointing herself president.

Vanellope is an awesome character for 9-year-old girls to love. Although she struggles with not being one of the popular girls, she knows she possesses her own strength and values herself, glitch or no glitch. And in the end, instead of using her princess power to get back at all the girls who bullied her, she decides to make “Sugar Rush” a place where everyone has a voice.

Life lessons aside, “Wreck-It Ralph” was still a success. The graphics in this movie are really fun and I was glad I splurged on 3D tickets because who doesn’t want to feel like they’re IN a video game?

And of course it was funny. Most of the humor was aimed towards kids-I heard them laughing from start to finish-but there were some good older-audience jokes in the mix as well. I especially enjoyed hearing so many familiar voices matched-up pretty perfectly with the movie’s characters.

I didn’t head to the movie theater hoping to find a message for young girls, I went to relive my childhood a little bit and have some fun. I got it all. Whether you want to take your family to see a fun movie about video games, or a movie that can teach them about confidence and acceptance, “Wreck-It Ralph” is a good choice.

A special thanks to Liz Giorgi at Being Geek Chic for some inspiration for this review.

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