Movie Mention: Wreck-It Ralph and Arthur Christmas

No real spoilers here, just a shout-out to two animated movies that most adults will enjoy as much as their kids.

Ralph at the Bad-Anon support group for video game villains.

Wreck-It Ralph is the story of, well, Ralph, a video game baddie who has been smashing things in his Donkey Kong-like world for thirty years. He performs his tasks perfectly, enabling the game’s hero, Fix-It Felix, Jr., to repair the damage and save the day. Trouble is, when the arcade closes and the game’s digital denizens retire to their homes, the citizens of Niceville want nothing to do with Ralph. He’s a pariah, expected to live in the city dump without a friend in the world. After thirty years, Ralph needs a change. So he decides to travel through the power cord nexus and jump games, hoping to distinguish himself as a good person and win some love.

Ralph and Vanellope.

As you may expect, Wreck-It Ralph is a visual treat, clever and well-thought out, full of video game in-jokes. But the best reason to see it, in my view, is the voice acting. John C. Reilly shines as Ralph; Sarah Silverman, never a favorite of mine, did great as Vanellope, a fellow outcast. Jane Lynch was terrific as Calhoun, a take-no-prisoners warrior, and Jack McBrayer (best known as Kenneth from 30 Rock) was perfect as Felix. Their voice work was so exceptional, the movie would have been almost as good as a standalone audio program … and that’s really saying something.

Arthur, Grandsanta and an elderly reindeer decide to take the old sleigh out of mothballs.

Arthur Christmas, released last year, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. It comes from the British animation company Aardman, known for high quality and comic genius. (Wallace  & Gromit, Chicken Run). It’s the story of Arthur, youngest male in the Claus dynasty and completely disregarded by the entire North Pole “machine,” as it’s become, until he learns a child was missed during his father’s yearly run. In this modern age, the sleigh has turned into a  quasi-spaceship, virtually all presents are delivered by  elves, and Arthur’s dad Santa is just a figurehead for an increasingly soulless operation. According to Arthur’s hyper-masculine, militaristic brother Steve, missing one child is statistically irrelevant. So bumbling Arthur, with the help of his Grandsanta, a rogue elf and an elderly reindeer, decides to deliver the forgotten present himself.

I loved Arthur Christmas. I won’t lie, I watched it because James McAvoy does the voice of Arthur, and of course he’s wonderful. But the other voice actors are also tremendous, including Hugh Laurie (famous here in the U.S. as Dr. House) and Bill Nighy. Nighy’s portrayal of Grandsanta — cantankerous, conniving and possessed of some very backward notions when it comes to elves — is genius. Definitely a movie I’ll be adding to the yearly roster.

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