Both "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Rise of the Guardians" were emotional films with surprising depth that managed to mix great 3D and action with great plot and great characterization.
"Wreck-It Ralph" has that Toon-Town-but-with-video-games thing going for it, (which piqued my interest immediately, even though I am not even remotely a gamer... I just love seeing icons from any medium mix and co-pollinate) where you get to see different video game genres and characters interacting, but beyond the gimmick, it had a real story to tell, which is unusual for the computer animated non-Pixar Disney fare (To be fair, I haven't watched them all. Chicken Little and Dinosaur were enough to make me leery, and those both came out a while ago). This felt like a Pixar outing, even in a world where Cars 2 happened to a trusting, and unsuspecting populace. But seriously, SO man people who just don't know any better are going to assume this was a Pixar movie. You know who I'm talking about.
Ralph is a simplistic creature who gets to build himself up as a person as the story moves along, without ever really losing what is important about him at his core. All the supporting cast serve to help support the same themes of the movie which are something like: Don't try to change the system, or buck the system, try to change how you view yourself IN the system. Be true to yourself, but be sure you know what that actually means. You need to know what your true self IS before you try to be true to it. Your day job may be villainy, but that doesn't mean you aren't a hero. It's a pretty heady concept for a kids movie, to be sure. And seeing so many different characters learn that same lesson in so many different ways was gratifying. Plus there's a BLATANTLY Iron Giant-esque scene that still managed to make me squeeze out a little tear. Shut up, I'm only human.
The voice acting is superb, and the cast is right out of my dreams, so there are no complaints there... if I had to force myself to report a complaint it would only be that the world of "Wreck-It Ralph" felt a little too small. I'd love to see a sequel that (1. has a good reason to exist, and an equally important message to impart and (2. explores even more gaming worlds.
I took my son to see RotG not really knowing what to expect. The movie is based on a series of books by William Joyce (who's works I have mentioned on this blog before, and I LOVE) about the Guardians of Childhood. I have not read this particular series yet, but plan to soon. The Guardians from the book series all have their gifts and talents, and include characters such as the Man in the Moon, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Sandman, and Mother Goose. There is (as far as I can tell, having not yet read the novels) no mention of Jack Frost, who is the main protagonist of the film.
This movie leaves out Mother Goose, and the Man in the Moon really only appears as a guiding "Charlie" style force to the other characters' "Angels" than as a character in his own right... But the cast they do include is great, and the story moves along swiftly without too much drag. Each of the characters really gets their moment to shine, and the connections between the characters, the children of the world, and belief in general are explored to great dramatic effect. Some really clever connections are made based on why the characters exist in the first place and the adventure they share during the plot. The villain is perfect too, as the Bogey-Man is the only real villain I could possibly conceive of that would counter-balance the Guardians.There were plenty of great, breath-taking action scenes, and I must also say I may have squeezed out an incredibly manly tear or two at certain moments for various different reasons.
All in all I was not disappointed, and I genuinely hope that this film spawns a sequel or two, as long as the story, writing, and voice talents are equal to or superior to this first outing. I think it would be a hard story to top however, as the threat in this first film is pretty ultimate, and I can't think of where they might go to top it. I wouldn't mind seeing Mother Goose added to the cast either, simply because I'm a nut for the concept of childhood having it's own special pantheon of protectors and want to see it rounded out even more. I'd also love to see more villains... but I'm having a hard time thinking of what character might be as culturally ingrained as the Bogey-Man to menace childhood with.
I'll be back soon with more Goodwill (re)Gifted Goodies, so until then, Happy Hay-filled-manger Hunting!