The At-Home Dad Chronicles: Wreck-It Ralph Made Me Cry And I’m Not Afraid To Admit It

***3/4/13 UPDATE***
Wreck-It Ralph is out on DVD tomorrow and Amazon’s pre-order just got even cheaper. Order now!

I used to think that it took a lot to get me jazzed about a Disney film.  More than just that Pixar desk light animation title screen.  Turns out though, all it really takes is Q*bert.

Wreck-It Ralph opened today and I caught the first 3D showing at my not-exactly-local metroplex. The farther-away one has AM start times and those are my kind of flicks; pre-noon, cheap, mostly-empty.  I saw the preview for Disney’s newest offering months ago, before The Muppets took the screen, and sat up a little straighter and laughed very, very hard while giving the Mrs. knowing looks with hand cupped over mouth in disbelief — was Pac Man really on the big screen with dudes from Mortal Kombat? The girls had no idea why their papa was cackling, they’d never seen any of those characters before — hah, young’ins.

Did the movie live up to the trailer? Like fun it did.

One of my least favorite things about kid’s movies is the potty humor. Not because I don’t dig potty humor (see this tweet from me yesterday), but “family-friendly” movie scripts tend to prefer cheap, not cheeky, humor and I pooh-pooh gags of the low hanging fruit variety.  There is body odor, bad breath, and poop jokes in Wreck-It Ralph but they don’t exist solely as a means to make us adults snicker, at the expense of the story. They’re told and heard through the innocent lens of a spunky kid, Vanellope von Schweetz, and place her in context, as a lovely, lonely, and silly little girl.  Just like when they discover how funny Uranus is whilst learning about the solar system (we are there now with the Bear), every kid finds the word ‘dooty’ funny once they get hip to its phonetic double meaning.  So yeah, there is a bunch of that kinda thing here but it doesn’t feel egregious thanks to nifty framing.

Seeing Wreck-It Ralph was akin to being at a buffet of awesome — Q*bert, the chanting & marching Oreo guards protecting the Candy Castle! backyard science saving the day! Q*bert!

Wreck-It Ralph was the most fun I’ve had at the movies in years, probably since Monsters Inc. The fact that both films feature prominently an adorable little spark plug of a brunette-haired girl isn’t lost on me.  And, I gotta tell ya, I cried a bit at the end because, and maybe it is just me, damn near everything I am seeing and hearing lately seems to be saying or expressing something critical about the relationship between a father and his daughter.  Now, of course Ralph isn’t the papa of Sugar Rush’s glitchy racer-tike Vanellope, but there’s an emotional response from the title character that exudes a father’s love, pride, and responsibility. It got me good.

Note: some kids with sensitivity to light, fast-paced action, sudden unexpected sounds, and general sensory overload may quiver here because Wreck-It Ralph is a playfully aggressive, mostly rambunctious piece of glossy eye-candy. But the list of those who wouldn’t enjoy it is far shorter than those who will squeal in delight at the countless retro references (even the word retro is given the treatment), clever wordplay (heavy on puns, as you might expect, but not all of them are groan-worthy), and the visual collision of your very own childhood with the current contents of your kid’s toy closet.

That two girls are at the center of the film’s two universes (the gaming one and the human one) makes Wreck-It Ralph a kid’s movie for all kids, boys & girls, gamers or not, as well as for their nostalgic, young-at-heart elders who, ‘back in the day,’ squandered way too many quarters inside an arcade.

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