Wreck-It Ralph Review
Nominated for both the Golden Globe and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Wreck-It Ralph is the 53rd official feature-length animation from Walt Disney Productions. Its story takes us on an adventure into the secret life of video games, as seen through the eyes of the eponymous Ralph. He’s the villain in the ever-popular game Fix-It Felix, Jr., but on the game’s 30th anniversary begins to feel under-appreciated and so goes in search of proving himself a hero, consequently causing havoc in both his game and others.
As well as the original creations like Ralph, Disney has also stuffed its tale with old school gaming references. It comes as no surprise to learn that Wreck-It Ralph’s budget was an estimated $165million given the sheer number of familiar faces glimpsed throughout and their no doubt costly licence fees. It was clearly a savvy investment though as even the most novice of gamers will recognise many of the cameo appearances and arouse that nostalgic feeling. To name just a few, you’ll find Sonic the Hedgehog and his nemesis Dr. Robotnik, Zangief, M. Bison, Ken and Ryu from the Street Fighter franchise, Pac-Man, a Super Mushroom from Super Mario, the Horned Reaper from Dungeon Keeper and plenty more besides. (Mario and Luigi are already rumoured to be preparing themselves for a sequel.)
Taking inspiration from Toy Story, the games’ characters interact whenever the humans aren’t paying attention. This opens up a world of imaginative detail as we witness the behind-the-scenes life of an arcade game. The various villains meet up at self-help group ‘Bad Anon’ (as featured in the trailer) and what, for you and me, is a multi-plug extension becomes, for Ralph and co., the incredible Game Central Station. It is here where he spots the platform for a new game, Hero’s Duty, and decides that this is his time to shine and to show the townspeople of Fix-It Felix, Jr. that he too can be a hero.
Once Ralph enters Hero’s Duty it soon becomes clear that a character from a 30-year-old game like him doesn’t really belong in a modern warfare first-person shooter(!) – a clever little nod to the ever-developing world of gaming that makes for some excellent exchanges between him and that game’s main character, the feisty Sgt. Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch). It becomes her job, in an unlikely partnership with Fix-It Felix, Jr., to fix the mess that Ralph’s arrival has created. Felix, incidentally, is voiced by Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame.
Despite their two games being worlds apart, Calhoun and Felix develop a relationship that brings a great deal of fun to Wreck-It Ralph. Even more so when they enter Sugar Rush, a self-confessed Mario Cart-inspired game where everything is made up of sweets: karts of made of confectionary and race on a taffy track; even the spectators are sugary treats. (The creation of Sugar Rush was such that part of the film’s creative team required a field trip to Germany solely to study candy.) It could be said that a little too much time is spent within this game rather than the arcade world as whole, but then it does provide Wreck-It Ralph with its main storyline once outcast and wannabe racer Vanellope von Schweetz enters the picture.
Ralph is voiced by John C. Reilly and is completely lovable from the start, with Sarah Silverman taking on the part of Vanellope. She’s bursting with energy and excitement which, for some viewers, may prove to be irritating, though I’ve a feeling many will come around before the finale. The bond that develops between Ralph and Vanellope is really quite heartwarming and couldn’t help but put a smile on my face. Also worth mentioning are King Candy (Firefly’s Alan Tudyk), the eccentric ruler of Sugar Rush with a hidden agenda, and his sidekick Sour Ball (director Rich Moore) who’s somewhat reminiscent of Kif from Futurama. Moore’s previous experience on the animated science fiction sitcom is surely no coincidence.
It’s the attention to detail that is Wreck-It Ralph’s most impressive feature. Not just the references to the already much-loved characters, but also the 188 unique and original characters created specifically for the film (beating the previous record of 60 held by Pixar). Even the townspeople of Fix-It Felix, Jr. move jerkily around like the 8-bit pixels of an old arcade game. The visuals are stunning – crisp, bright and constantly busy – with the cherry-on-the-top being the excellent vocal talent and a thoroughly enjoyable tale for all ages. Perhaps there are maybe not enough jokes to entertain the parents, but what it lacks in adult humour it more than makes up for with 108 minutes of wit and sheer imagination. Another winner from Disney.