I know, I know. You don’t like animated features; you think they’re for kids. And furthermore, the 3-D is kind of a pain, too, because you have to remember these “special” plastic glasses and if you are already wearing glasses, they don’t fit well, and you are going to suffer some visual distortion and random light reflection. Not only that, a G- or even PG-rated film is too often …. well, bland and shallow, failing to plumb the depths of genuine human experience. And Disney is going to give you a happy ending, regardless, and you may even have to endure some hokey-ness and silliness to get there.
Admittedly, “Wreck-It Ralph” doesn’t solve all these preemptive obstacles. However, if you decide to give this one a try, you might find yourself immersed in its particular tableau, and starting to care about the cartoon characters despite yourself.
Wreck-It Ralph (the voice of John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in a video game. His function is to destroy the high-rise building with his oversize hands and hulk-like strength, and then the good guy comes along, Fix-It Felix (the voice of Jack McBrayer). And the game-player gets points for everything that Felix fixes. But after years of this steady diet of being the bad guy, suddenly Wreck-It Ralph develops a conscience, and starts to not enjoy all the havoc he’s creating, not to mention being ostracized by the others. (Yes, à la “Toy Story,” all the video game characters come to life when the humans aren’t around.) So he runs away to a nearby video game (exiting through the electrical connectors) to try to prove himself a good guy by winning a medal somewhere.
Wreck-It Ralph finds himself in a video game involving little girls in racing cars, and soon meets Vanellope (the voice of comedian Sarah Silverman), who’s threatened with extinction because she’s now a “glitz” and keeps blinking on and off. She, too, is trying to redeem herself, and the two of them become unlikely friends and allies, but of course, that’s part of the point: Friendship can come from unlikely places.
What’s interesting here is that it is possible for the Christian moviegoer to begin to consider this scenario theologically. The main characters, like humans, are flawed, and sometimes naughty, and sometimes lazy, and sometimes antisocial, and sometimes their own worst enemies. But they also have the potential to help each other bring out the best in their natures. By contrast, they have to fight evil in two different forms: the characters around them who turn to their dark side, and are bent on control and violence, and also “the powers of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), or evil as a cosmological force, represented here by unexplained viruses that are out to bring chaos to whatever order they encounter. And, of course, love can transform the entire landscape.
Did this supposed kids’ movie intend all that philosophical depth? Probably not. At least not consciously. But it’s intriguing to look at it that way, anyway. And it’s not a bad movie, either.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.