I'll mention as a bit of a preface, that I am a guy who loves video games. I've been gaming for just about as long as I can remember, and whether it was back in the day with the Mario brothers, or current day, with the psychosis that is Borderlands, I love to lose myself in a good game. It has saddened me over the years that when video games get translated up onto the big screen, the resulting mess is almost always an insult to the gamers that the movie was supposed to cater to.
Now, Disney sticks their mitts into the mix, and bake up a fake game, and make a movie about it. And it is, without a doubt, the best video game movie I have ever seen.
The game in question is "Fix-It Felix, Jr." The game, has a sort of "Rampage" feel to it, but with the goal being to fix the damage, rather than to cause it. The movie centers around Ralph, the antagonist of the game, who after 30 years of being the bad guy, decides he is tired of being bad, and wants to be the hero for a change. What results is a ride through 3 distinct fictional game worlds, each of which represents a different type of game, and the resulting homogeneous mixture is a veritable ... "Sugar Rush". (You'll get that after you see the movie).
The game is practically littered with video game references, whether it be the famous Konami Code, or just the guy from Dig Dug walking by in the background, there are times when you just want to pause the film, and play "Name that Game". Even in the trailer, when Ralph sits in on a meeting of Bad-Anon, there are a number of cameos by some beloved game characters. This is a movie, that knows games, and wants to revel in the love of the game, rather than to wallow in a Boll-ian mish-mash of crap.
The voice acting is pretty great, with wonderful performances by Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, John C. Reilly, Alan Tudyk, and even Sarah Silverman. Each character has a unique voice that is (other than Mr. Tudyk) immediately recognizable. And unlike many animated features I have seen, I did not find myself grinding my teeth trying to bear the grating voice acting.
The only thing that really detracts from the movie, is that it is obviously made for kids. This is the movie that gamers did not know they were waiting for, and it comes in the form of a movie with the under 15 crowd in mind. Sure, there are a lot of references in there for those of us that love the games, but in the end, it is a somewhat simplistic romp, meant to entertain the kids, while giving the adults some good chuckles along the way.
I glossed over it earlier, but I feel that it is worth mentioning again just how much detail went into making the worlds distinct. Character design, animation style, and color palettes are all different to give each individual world a flavor of its own. Watch the character animations for the majority of the characters in the Fix-It Felix world. Stunted motion, blockier graphics, and simplistic character designs. Contrast that with the Hero's Duty world. Smoother animation, more realistic graphics, and a character design more reminiscent of the modern era of gaming. It is a well thought out, and well executed visual work. Kudos to the design crew and the animation department.
Stick around for the credits, because while it isn't exactly a post-credit scene, it is a pseudo-scene. Not to mention the credits are actually fairly entertaining in their own rights. Someone even gets credit for caffeination!
One final bit before I move on. Like the Pixar family of films, this movie was also preceded by a short film. This films is called "Paperman" and is perhaps best described as a silent film version of a romantic comedy. No dialog, just animation. And while it is not the most spectacular film ever created, it is simplistic, and tells the story in a short window. The animation is great, and honestly, I kinda enjoyed it as well.
Recomendation: If you are a gamer, see the film. Enjoy the scenery, look for some of your favorite old school games. If you have kids, let them see it. The movie has some crude humor, but it is still very kid friendly. The movie will speak to the child in all of us, and is almost guaranteed to leave you smiling.
Is it Theater-worthy: I think so. There is something special about seeing a great animation on the big screen. I won't recommend it for the 3D aspect, because I skipped the 3D showing, but I can only hope that that aspect is done justice, and fits, rather than feeling forced like most 3D movies.
Final Thoughts: This is a movie that plays great on the big screen, but will play just as well in repeated viewings in the privacy of your own home. Go out there and watch it. Don't miss out on this opportunity to feel like a kid again.
Frank's Final Score: 8.75 out of 10