CINEMA RELEASE: WRECK-IT-RALPH
Release date: 26th December 2012
Director: Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer
Review by Peter Gray
Wreck-It-Ralph, the titular character in Disney’s latest animated adventure, is a bad guy, or at least he has been programmed as one for the last 30 years in the ‘Fix-It Felix’ arcade game that has been his life. The idea that behind the television screens of arcade programs lays another world where these characters live an existence not dissimilar to us is one we’ve seen before from the company, with the magic of toys coming to life proving a success three times over with the ‘Toy Story’ films, and though ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ may be borrowing the concept it is certainly its own film and yet another winner from the Disney crew.
Much like ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ brought together a series of cartoon characters from rival companies, ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ collects some of the more iconic and familiar faces from the 80’s and 90’s video game scene and brings them together in a universe where they happily interact with each other, travelling to different video game settings through the railway tunnel that is an electrical cord, just as long as they are in their own location when the power is switched on as if they fail to ‘show up for work’ (as it were) the arcade owner assumes the game is on the fritz and it runs the risk of being unplugged, leaving the game inhabitants homeless. It’s quite an inventive concept and viewers who grew up playing video games will have a ball picking the countless cameos (‘Streetfighter’ enthusiasts will likely get a kick out of seeing the characters of Ryu and Ken interacting socially), especially in the bad-anon scene where Ralph (voiced by John C.Reilly) and other villains like Zangief from ‘Streetfighter’, Bowser from ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and the ghost like figures from Pac-Man chat about what it’s like to be the bad guy in their game. Unlike the majority of his group Ralph doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore and he devises a plan that will see him earn a hero’s medal, so that he can finally join in the festivities with his ‘Fix-It Felix’ co-stars, namely Felix (Jack McBrayer) himself.
With his best chance at winning a medal being in another game, Ralph intends to game jump (or ‘go turbo’ as it is called) and through a series of unfortunate events ends up in ‘Sugar Rush’, a girly, candy-themed racing game that bears similarities to ‘Mario Kart’. Here he becomes friends, though initially quite unwillingly, with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a bouncy young girl who, like Ralph, is treated as an outcast in her game due to her tendency to ‘glitch’ out. Racing is all she wants to do, it’s even written in her code, but the evil Sugar Rush ruler King Candy (voiced ever so gleefully by Alan Tudyk) is adamant on keeping her out of the race. With Ralph’s spontaneous journey out of his own game potentially putting it in risk of being unplugged, it comes down to Felix to burden the responsibility of retrieving Ralph before it’s too late, and his brief stint in a violent, first-person shooter game called ‘Heroes Duty’ thrusts the savvy Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch) into the mix, much to her displeasure.
From here onwards the majority of the film focuses on Ralph and Vanellope, and the budding friendship they form and the classic message of “how being yourself is what really counts” shining through without thankfully being shoved down our throats. There’s nothing wrong with a wholesome message in today’s films, especially aimed at children, but it does appear a little out of left field in ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ when the first 40 minutes or so is quite edgy (in Disney standards anyway) regarding its humour. Still we must remember it’s a children’s film after all and the more positive material they are privy to the better.
With so many of the games and characters referenced here proving how limited a shelf-life one can have, it’s refreshing to see a film like ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ create something special and mildly original out of a familiar concept. The hand-drawn animation we came to love as children indeed appears to be a thing of the past, but if Ralph is an indication of the future of Disney, and it should be noted this was made without the assistance of Pixar, then we are all in good hands.
My rating 4/5 (Another Disney winner)