Movie review: Wreck-it Ralph (3D)
It was certainly a shrewd move by Disney to make an animated film with a huge gaming theme; after all, the gaming industry officially makes bigger bucks than the film industry these days.
The film also has a pleasing premise that focuses on a villain of a game, and yet it soon becomes apparent that Wreck-It Ralph is far from the film that gamers were both expecting and hoping for.
It starts off well enough. One of the games that has lasted the longest in Litwak's arcade is the classic game Fix-It Felix. In fact the game and its characters are about to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary. All the characters bar one, that is: Wreck –It Ralph (John C. Reilly). Ralph is the villain of the game, whose sole purpose is to destroy the building that the game's hero Fix-It Felix (Jack McBryer) is so intent on doing his best to keep the building intact.
But even when the day of gaming ends, Ralph finds himself living in a junk heap, while all the other characters enjoy each other's company inside the building. And even though the game wouldn't be the same without Ralph, no-one is inclined to invite him to their anniversary party.
This cold shoulder mentality doesn't go unnoticed by Ralph, who has even signed up to a support group for other game villains, to air their mutual frustrations.
All Ralph wants is to win a medal for his troubles. And he decides that if it means him going AWOL from his own game, and taking on the challenge of another game in the arcade, then so be it.
One night then Ralph escapes the gaming world of Fix-It Felix and heads off for a newer game called Hero's Duty. Managing to disguise himself as one of the game's soldier grunts, he does indeed manage to win himself a medal. However, his appearance in another game doesn't go by without its consequences. He causes a massive glitch to the program which throws him into yet another title – a driving game known as Sugar Rush.
It's here that he has his medal taken off of him by a young upstart called Vanellope (Sarah Silverman); she's been trying desperately to be seen as a regular character within the game, but has so far failed. She sees Ralph's appearance as a golden opportunity: if Ralph helps her build a kart and win a race, she'll return his medal to him. With no other choice open to him, Ralph reluctantly agrees. Meanwhile, his disappearance from Fix-It Felix is causing havoc with all the other games, which leads to Felix himself having to track Ralph down in order to save the day again. But as he soon discovers, other games play by completely different rules.
Initially the film caters to doughy-eyed gamers with a number of retro-gaming references. Unfortunately it quickly abandons them in favour of an overly saccharine story that involves the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope. Silverman has a pretty annoying voice generally, but somehow she made some tweaks just for her character, to make possibly the most annoying and grating voice for any known animated character. The scratching of a chalkboard sounds like the gentle plucking of harp strings in comparison.
But it's not just the voice that irritates but her character too. She's clearly been created for a specific demographic, that being anyone five or under. It wouldn't be a surprise if Disney announced a spin-off show on one of their channels for the very young, in the not so distant future. Along with an unhealthy amount of merchandise, naturally.
As soon as this character is introduced, the film turns into a completely different beast; gone are the nice gaming references and what's left is a formulaic and bland pals-against-the-odds flick. In fact
The film also contains as many confectionary references as it does video games, which feels more like product placement rather than affection for certain confection.
The main problem is that the central premise has been Disneyfied beyond belief. If only someone like Pixar had handled the project, then they could have produced the type of film that the trailer hinted that it might be. What's more disconcerting is that John Lasseter, who's now also the chief creative officer at Disney as well as Pixar, was the executive producer on this project, so he clearly had a lapse of judgement along the way.
As far as the story is concerned it's just so disappointing, particularly when you considered that the animation is up to the studio's usually high standard.
It's bright and bold colouring will certainly appeal to a younger audience, but anyone expecting a jokes left, right,right,right, left and fire involving gaming past and present, will be bitterly dissatisfied.
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