Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #24

Re: Wreck-It Ralph [video]

I’m sixteen years old and I’ve been reading your website for the past year or so. I noticed that you gave Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph only a C+. I saw it hoping against all odds that you would be wrong.

I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Though I would certainly never put the movie on par with movies such as Ratatouille or The Secret World of Arrietty, I found it an enjoyable and well-made diversion with interesting characters, impressive visuals, and fun plot twists.

You claimed that the character’s stories held no emotional gravity; I disagree. I felt bad for Vanellope when the other racers wrecked her car, I found Felix and Calhoun’s mismatched romance fun and comical, and I actually cried when Ralph was reciting the Villain’s Anonymous pledge as he fell towards the volcano.

You also complained that Vanellope was annoying, but I found her obnoxiousness to be nowhere near as potent as I expected it to be, and her banter with Ralph was charming and endearing. I also really liked the plot twist about King Candy. The idea that he was Turbo wasn’t even on the outskirts of my mind, but when it was revealed I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it coming.

Unlike many a DreamWorks movie, it was clear someone actually cared how it turned out. It had a distinctive and creative concept, a well-developed world, an interesting plot, and an engaging ensemble of characters. I don’t quite understand your negativity towards it. I would say it was Disney’s second best CGI movie, not as good as Tangled but certainly better than Bolt and everything preceding it.

Thanks for all the great work you do! I hope you don’t think this means I’m not going to read your website anymore. I love your writing and I’ll certainly continue to visit. I only wonder why you treated Wreck-It Ralph with such disdain.

I’m happy to hear you enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph more than I did. I didn’t dislike the film. I don’t think my review evinces “disdain.” You could say I reviewed Madagascar 3 or Ice Age 4 with disdain, but not Wreck-It Ralph. A C-plus review is still leaning positive, even if it isn’t entirely a recommendation.

I agree with you that regarding the impressive visuals and the clever plot twist regarding King Kandy. These are much what I expect from today’s Disney.

I don’t really agree regarding the characters. Ralph is likable enough, but his quest for a medal at all costs goes on for too long without enough self-awareness. Vanellope, though annoying, is sympathetic, but her yearning to race is thin motivation, and the amnesia device takes away anything more substantive.

Frankly, I hoped and expected to enjoy Wreck-It Ralph more than I did. (A friend whose opinion I’ve long respected told me it was better than Toy Story.) Sometimes expectations can affect a viewing experience, and it’s possible to enjoy a movie more the less one expects of it.

Of course part of my job as a critic is to try to look past such circumstances and craft a review that will stand the test of time. That doesn’t always happen, of course. Sometimes after seeing a movie repeatedly I find myself appreciating it more, until my original review seems insufficiently appreciative. Other times my esteem ebbs away over time, and the film’s flaws become more and more glaring, and my review seems too generous.

For the most part, though, I look back on past reviews and find that what I originally wrote still basically expresses how I feel today. I’m still happy with my review of Bolt, for instance — though if anything I probably enjoy more today than the first time I saw it. The love between Penny and Bolt, the cat/dog characterizations, Penny’s hilariously heartless Hollywood agent, the LA pigeons vs. the NYC pigeons: it all works pretty brilliantly.

It’s possible that over time I might come to appreciate Wreck-It Ralph more. Frankly, though, I doubt it. Counting noses doesn’t prove anything, but when enough people write to me essentially agreeing with my take on a film, it’s some confirmation that I’m onto something. Beyond that, I just feel in my critical bones that my criticisms of the film aren’t going away.

That doesn’t mean you have to agree! My take on a film is mine, and while I hope it’s useful to people, I don’t want anyone taking my opinion as authoritative. A good review offers an informed opinion that provides useful information and context on a film, and hopefully offers a place to begin thinking about a film and forming your own opinions. Some of my favorite reviews from other critics are reviews I disagree with, because they prompted me to clarify and refine my own reasons for thinking differently about the film — as perhaps you’ve done here in response to my review.

P.S. I’m delighted to hear that you’ve seen and appreciated the likes of Ratatouille and The Secret World of Arrietty.

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