Director: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Alan Tudyk
Run-time: 108 minutes
IN SHORT: Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated film I've seen since Wall-E. It's hilarious and witty with a heart-warming core.
Ladies and gents. Dogs and cats. Any sentient beings reading this review right now, I may have already seen my film of the year. Yes, I know it's already January and I may be jumping to hasty conclusions but I just can't see any film matching the magic I felt whilst watching Wreck-It Ralph. Over the years, Disney have transported us to many magical places - the Pride Lands of Africa, Wonderland, Ancient Greece and even the lost city of Atlantis. In Wreck-It Ralph, we're thrown into a world that's much closer to home; a world that exists behind the glass screens of the video games we play every day.
The hero of the story is in fact a villain named Ralph (Reilly). He's part of a retro arcade game called Wreck-It Ralph, alongside the hero Fix-It Felix who gets all of the fame and attention. Ralph is depressed and he wants recognition. Just because he's a bad-guy, doesn't mean he's a BAD guy, right? He decides to take drastic action by 'game-jumping' into a first person shooter called Hero's Duty, a game that hands out gold medals to all that conquer it. By switching games, Ralph puts the whole arcade world in jeopardy, truly living up to his 'Wreck-It' character name.
|Ralph is a great heroic villain, or is it villainous hero?|
If you thought Wreck-It Ralph was a Pixar creation, you'd be forgiven for thinking so. The concept behind the film is so clever, witty and self-aware. It's very much akin to Toy Story in the way it homages pop-culture, most specifically retro games. This is most evident in the opening scene as Ralph spills his heart out to Zangief (Street Fighter), Doctor Eggman (Sonic) and Bowser (Mario) at a villain counseling session. Just seeing these characters share screen-time together made my inner nerd squeal with joy!
Wreck-It Ralph is all about the details. The arcade machines are connected to a giant extension cable, which acts as a train station for the characters to 'game jump'. And homeless characters like Q*Bert, who's machine was disconnected, gather round begging for donations. The film is littered with video game references. You can try to catch them all but you'll most likely fail. A lot of the comedy comes from Ralph's inadequacy as a 2D-rendered character who struggles to navigate his way through more advanced, higher definition worlds. He jumps into the Call of Duty spoof, Hero's Duty, only to find himself overwhelmed by the fast pace, loud sound effects and overwhelming violence. He then stumbles into Sugar-Rush, a bright, serene racing game where he destroys everything that he touches.
Whilst in Sugar Rush, Ralph meets the best character in the entire movie - a little girl called Vanellope voiced by Sarah Silverman. She has the cuteness of Boo from Monster's Inc mixed with a loveable cheekiness and infectious energy. Her and Ralph form an uncanny friendship built around insults and witty banter. Another comedienne lending their voice is Jane Lynch (Glee, Role Models) as Calhoun, a tough-talking super-soldier from Hero's Duty who's tasked with returning Ralph back to his game. Although the character shares little physical similarity to Lynch, her body language and mannerisms are so perfectly captured by the animators.
|"Why are your hands so freakishly big?"|
Video games are a huge part of Wreck-It Ralph's aesthetic but the movie is far more than that. People who aren't clued up on their retro games will still find the film enjoyable, no doubt. There's a surprising amount of heart that creeps its way into the final act as the film tackles universal themes like gaining acceptance and loneliness. When the action amps up and the stakes are raised, you really care for these characters, even if they are just a bunch of pixels. The great voice-work definitely helps and it's nice that Disney opted for actors who actually fit the role, rather than shoe-horning in random mega-stars. (I'm looking at you Ice Age!)
The wannabe critic in me is searching for some negatives in order to make this review a little more balanced but Wreck-It Ralph really did feel perfect to me! The visuals are on par with anything that Pixar have released recently and the retro references make it endlessly rewatchable. Wreck-It Ralph made me feel like a kid again, from the 8-bit Walt Disney Studio ident at the start, right through to the poop jokes scattered throughout for the little'uns. This film comes highly recommended by this nerd!