Note: What follows is not meant to be a pity party or anything. It's just a tiny bit of my life story.
When I was younger, I had almost no friends. I went to a private school from Kinder through 8th grade, and everybody knew everybody. And that meant if you didn't have friends, you probably weren't going to. I had one friend growing up, though his other friends weren't the nicest to me. I was bullied--both verbally and physically. And it came to a point where even the one friend would join in with them at times. It got so bad around Jr. High that I would go home crying almost every day. I felt like an outcast, like nobody gave a damn about me. I was different. I was made to believe nothing about me, from my looks to the things that I liked to even my name, was worth anything. And I was afraid constantly to be... anything.
I couldn't go out and play with anyone, as I had nobody to go out and play with. So I turned to video games. Eventually, those video games led me to the internet, where I started to become a part of a video game community. The internet was a place where it didn't matter what you looked like, because you could be whoever you wanted and you were among other people with similar interests. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, I found myself a part of yet another community where I had only a friend or two and everybody else treated me like some pariah. And, again, even those sparse friends would one day treat me poorly, and I'd be left with nothing except my video games again.
Fortunately, by the time I reached 11th grade, the bullying stopped almost entirely. I found a group of friends who also loved geek culture--video games, anime, etc. They embraced who they were, and being with them helped me to embrace who I was. I found that I wasn't bad or wrong or incapable of being accepted. I learned it was OK to be who I was, and they still appreciated me. And although to this day I remain an easy target, I'd learned to roll with the punches, as most of it comes from a place of comedic affection.
All of that being said, I think it's understandable why this film made me emotional. I knew exactly how both Ralph and Vanellope felt, being outcasts from their societies and feeling unable to escape from that. To turn to video games for help, only to find them not as helpful as you would expect. And to eventually find their place, make friends, and find acceptance not only in society but in themselves. This film rang so true with me on an emotional level, and when it came to a certain moment where the two characters came to blows with each other and you see the hurt and panic in Vanellope's eyes and voice, I had to hold back my own feelings (no, I didn't cry).
Besides the emotional connection, I obviously felt connected to it on the video game level. If you couldn't tell through my weekly video game movie series, I have a connection to the medium. And although it's definitely not as strong as it once was, the idea of characters travelling from one world to the next was insanely cool to me. And to see actual video game characters we know and love interacting was great. If I have one complaint, however, it's that the movie didn't live up to its potential in that regard. You see characters from and references to Pac-Man, Sonic, Street Fighter, Q-Bert, Mario, and plenty more, but it's mainly in the first act, and they don't have any major part of the plot. We mainly stick with the three new games made up for the film. (Though I'm surprised that, with Disney's connection to Square-Enix with Kingdom Hearts, no Final Fantasy characters popped up in the background. I know they aren't arcade characters, but neither are Sonic or Bowser, so...)
But it still works for what it is. And the humor is good, too--that is, if you're a fan of puns. If you absolutely loathe puns, there's not much in the humor department for you here. Especially once they get to the Sugar Rush game, it's pun-central. It kind of reminded me of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs in that regard. Though Jane Lynch is very Jane Lynch, so you have that going for it, too.
What really works for the film is its animation. It holds so true to video games of all styles and ages. For instance, the regular people in the Fix-It Felix game move a bit laggy, because that's how they act in the game. From the look of the characters to how they move and speak and interact, so much effort went into making this film special. They weren't just going to toss in video game characters just because they could. They were going to make this a love letter to arcades and arcade games. You can clearly tell the creators of this film loved what they were working with.
Although the film isn't absolutely perfect (and you can see some story elements coming a mile away), it hit me with an emotional power punch connected with a nostalgia factor and I couldn't help but love this film. I would have liked to have seen more of the film take place outside of the Sugar Rush setting and see more established game characters, but the film really, really worked for what it was setting out to accomplish. The emotion, the animation, the humor, the characters, the overall world... this movie was fantastic, and I will definitely be seeing it again.
Royale With Cheese
(P.S. Oh, and the Paperman short was very charming! I liked that, too.)