Sunday, December 2, 2012

Family Movie Night: Wreck-It Ralph

Title: Wreck-It Ralph
Director: Rich Moore
Original Release: 2012
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Image via Disney Wiki

Wreck-It Ralph is a strong nostalgic tug for those of us who grew up in the golden age of the video game arcade, imagining a life after-hours for the characters in the games.  The title character is the bad guy in a Donkey Kong-like game.  His desires for greater love and respect lead him on misadventures to the other game cabinets. 

The story is set in the present day, allowing video games of all eras to be represented.  The obvious choices like Pac-Man and Frogger are referenced from the '80s.  From later decades, there are cameos by characters from Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, Dance Dance Revolution and on and on.  There's even a glimpse of Pong.

Still jonesing for more retro gaming discussion?  My blogger pal Suze had a fun post about Galaga this past week. 

Multi-generational considerations:
  • If anything, I was eager for stronger nostalgic tugs.  They could have done more with the music, for instance.  Only one '80s song was featured in the soundtrack: "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang.  "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. is featured in the trailer but not the movie.  Why not some old techno?  "Pac-Man Fever," even just a little snippet of it, seems an obvious choice - but alas, no.

  • Our Girl seemed to enjoy it but I think My Wife and I got a lot more of the jokes.  There is talk of a sequel.  Perhaps by then, they'll work in some Angry Birds jokes for her cohort.
  • If you're looking for a movie to help you reconnect with your '80s arcade rat self, a far better film is The King of Kong - a very enjoyable documentary, not as kid-friendly, though.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. Squidward! Pac-Man fever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes, 'tis I at the height of the ungodly hour. :) I was looking through some very old posts and found a few I definitely felt were worthy of linkage on our threads and came by only to find this gem! Haha! I'm laughing silently at the intro so as not to disturb the sane sleeping in my house. I have one for you. You ready? All right, here it is:

    (I especially love 2:06-2:36.)

    And I really, really hope you're still jonesin' for stronger nostalgic tugs. If so, see if this provides anything that works for you. (One of those links has the best running man I've seen in years.)

    1. Fun post you linked there - interesting combo of techno and hair bands. You already know my favorite song from the era ("Only You"). I like that you ended with U2. My favorite song from that album, though, is the only one they didn't play when I went to the concert:

      I'm a sucker for a song with a slow build that bangs you over the head once the drums kick in. Nobody delivers on that quite like Larry Mullen, Jr. - at least, nobody of that era.

    2. Squidditch, I first realized how much I needed the drums as an 18-year-old. I was away from home for the first time and chose the church I would attend according to my own criteria (mostly 'the intangibles' experienced solidly just beneath the solar plexus.) I went to a place out of a storefront headed by a trio of pastors, one of whom with I shared a very respectful relationship. He ended up writing me a recommendation for a job. I was comfortable and happy there, bumming a ride every Sunday off a double major -- Bio and Physics -- a couple of years older than me who also lived in the brainy girls' dorm.

      The worship band at the church had this amazing man with curly, curly black hair and an ever-present smile as wide as Texas as their drummer -- and he always soloed. God, at that point and today, soaked up nearly all of my identity, in a good, dynamic way. Listening to Mark on drums, though, was my best baptism. I looked forward to his solos all week. It was when I felt the most uncompromised, the most (inwardly) ecstatic, the most utterly and perfectly free.

      And the build before the solo has a lot to do with that, I think.

    3. Drums are the very essence of primal, percussion being the most basic of musical concepts. Quite a lot of my favorite people have been percussionists, including a really good friend in college who also ended up in Japan for part of the same time I was there. He was/is a very even-keeled guy. Beat and rhythm are at his core as a human being.

      I actually have very mixed feelings about U2. There's no denying their staying power but I start to squirm when people talk about them as a great band. No band in history has benefited more from expert studio sound production. Is Bono a great front man? Definitely. Are they great songwriters? I'd have to say no. For all of their popularity, you don't see a lot of U2 covers and there's a reason why. Great instrumentalists? No - with one big exception.

      Mullen, the least famous member of the band, is the secret of U2's success. The defining sound of the group, the element of their music which has had the greatest influence on the industry, is not Bono's voice but that frenetic drumming over a slow melodic rhythm. It's hypnotic. Amazingly, the execs wanted him out when the band signed their first recording contract. Now, it's very difficult to imagine U2 without him.

    4. I like and am a little bit surprised to read you state your opinions with such (welcome) vigor -- though I'm not sure why that should surprise me, you've never held back on an honest assessment of a number of things on this blog, before.

      My eyebrows shot up when I realized you were right about the dearth of covers, but the fact is, I really like a lot of U2 songs: Numb, Running to Stand Still, Pride (In the Name of Love,) Where the Streets Have No Name and Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car ones that come immediately to mind. I don't think of them as mediocre songs not worthy of covers and yet ...

      Thinking about the execs purportedly wanting to sign the band without a particular member drives home something I have been chewing on for a while, here. How in the world do we define success? If there are so many arbitrary variables constantly churning in the mix, how can we even begin to valuate art? There's the subjectivity of the consumer, but there's also 'the market,' the gatekeepers, the zeitgeist, the prominent memes, being at the so-called right place at the right time, persistence -- almost to the point of embracing being a glutton for punishment -- and even mercy. Someone with some sort of authority taking mercy on an artist whose talent may or may not be commensurate to their exposure and good fortune.

      I say, good for Mullen. Luck was a lady and now you're singing his praises. So it goes.

    5. Like I said, my feelings about U2 are complicated. I'm a fan. There are songs of theirs I adore. "With or Without You" is one of my all-time favorites. They've been so successful for so long, though, that comparisons to bands like the Rolling Stones and the Who are completely reasonable and I'm not sure they measure up to the high musical standards of other superbands. Comparing Bono to Jagger is reasonable. Mullen is a tier below the Moons, Pearts and Bonhams of the world but he's definitely made an impact. But comparing The Edge to someone like Jimmy Page? Now, that's just silly. Adam Clayton to Paul McCartney? Not a chance.

      Song writing - to me, a truly great song is one you can reduce to the bare essentials, a lone singer noodling around on a piano or an acoustic guitar, and it's still compelling. The Beatles are the gold standard, of course. Take "Strawberry Fields Forever" - probably their single most overproduced song. If you listen to some of the original demo recordings, it's still absolutely beautiful - better even. U2 songs aren't like that. Like I said, I love "With or Without You" but take away Brian Eno's production genius and I think it would actually be a fairly boring song. No one would ever say that about "Eleanor Rigby."

      To your other point, there's no question luck plays a big role in success - who you meet, when you meet them, what else is happening in the industry that could suddenly provide an entree. Accidents of birth play a role, too. How lucky are we all that John and Paul were born in the same city just a couple years apart? If not for their chance meeting, we might never have heard of either of them.

  2. I didn't realize Brian Eno produced WoWY. Reading over this entire thread, I'm struck by just how many variables go into the final product -- those not just of intention and application of skill but the whims of fortune.

    A few of my preferred Beatles tunes: Fairly unvarying percussion, but I really, really enjoy it, particularly at the very end. Truly magnificent. Scalp tingling simply with the intro. Just beautiful. Let those drums hypnotize you into a better place. Simple percussion just like a locomotive, what I only know to call syncopation with the lyrics on the verses? Something different. Very Nick-like for me.

    Finally, one of my favorite places to eat: :)

    1. "Tomorrow Never Knows" - I'm so glad you picked that one! Pretty far out there for the rock 'n' roll audience of 1966 but 46 years later there's no denying, it's a work of genius. Have you ever heard Phil Collins's cover? It's not as good, of course, but an acceptable homage. It's the sort of song that a drummer can best appreciate.

    2. Did not know of the Collins cover and am listening to it for the third time, right now. At first blush, I rebelled. No. No, no, no, way too slow. But then I started to read this link on Thelema that another blogger emailed me this evening while listening to it and I can't really describe how beautifully the text and the music integrated.

      Gifts. The universe all gifty.

      I like the cover, B. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.