This is one of those times where I wish I was a 10 year old, or younger, so I could have enjoyed this movie more. It isn’t that I can’t reach that innocent sense of wonder and just have fun, but I expect my humor to have a bit more to it than, for instance, scatological jokes about “duty.”
What starts as a very clever premise, rapidly slips into frosting-covered silliness with no protein underneath it. The story itself is well structured, but the emotional life and level of humor never quite gets above a 3rd grade level. And while the movie clearly struck a chord and was successful, I just don’t see it; there wasn’t even enough implied nostalgia to keep me fully engaged even while moments were enjoyable.
I do have to admit that there are some very clever 8-bit jokes in the design of the film. Particularly in Ralph’s home game there are some subtle visual blocking and odd movement use to suggest an 8-bit world being viewed in modern 3D. Unfortunately this clever conceit is not carried through the rest of the design and other equally old characters. In some ways I’m glad it wasn’t over-used, as it was a little hard to watch at moments. However, by only using it in spots, it felt out of place in the end and wasn’t enough of a contrast with the newer games so that it made a lot of visual sense.
If you have a kid or three that you need to entertain and they’re relatively young, putting this in front of them will do the trick at least once. After they see it once, though, I don’t think they’ll be that interested in going back. This isn’t The Incredibles or, heck, even Hotel Transylvania in terms of overall quality, but it has enough moments to entertain for at least a single viewing if you’re desperate or curious enough; it wasn’t as if I felt tortured watching it, I just didn’t feel fully satisfied when it was done.