Should I Watch..? 'Wreck-It-Ralph' (2012)
What's the big deal?
Wreck-It-Ralph is a computer animated family film released in 2012 by Walt Disney, their fifty-second animated feature film. The film is set within the world of video gaming and sees titular villain Ralph jumping across games trying to become a hero for once. The movie stars John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch and was co-written and directed by Rich Moore. Released to a warm reception from critics as well as a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, the film generated worldwide takings of $471 million against its $165 million budget and generated enough interest for a sequel which is due in 2018.
What's it about?
Much like the various toys in Toy Story, the assorted heroes and villains of various arcade machines interact with each other whenever their arcade is closed. Wreck-It-Ralph, the oversized antagonist in retro platform game Fix-It Felix, Jr, has grown tired of being the bad guy after thirty years, becoming ostracised from the other characters within the game including the hero with the magic hammer, Felix. Desperate for acceptance, Ralph leaves the confines of his machine and journeys to the futuristic shooter Hero Duty where he hears of a hero medal awaiting capture.
Unfortunately, Ralph's natural tendency towards destruction results in a chaotic escape from Hero Duty with the medal and he crash-lands in sweet-themed kart racing game Sugar Rush. While Ralph struggles to recapture his medal from forgotten character and glitch Vanellope, Felix teams up with the central character from Hero Duty Sergeant Calhoun in order to get Ralph back where he belongs - before the whole Fix-It Felix, Jr machine is thrown out and before a virus unwittingly unleashed by Ralph can take over the whole arcade.
What's to like?
Aside from providing characters and settings for third-rate adaptations, video games have been poorly served by cinema for many years but thankfully, Wreck-It-Ralph feels like a long overdue love-letter with more cameos and in-jokes that even the most calloused of thumb-bandits might miss. The opening is especially brilliant, showing Ralph at a group therapy session attended by the likes of Bowser, M. Bison and even Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man. The film manages to span the full spectrum of video games with 8-bit graphics and simplistic gameplay perfectly mimicked before blending seamlessly with the high definition, ultra combative shooters gamers are more used to today. I loved the fact that the characters in Fix-It Felix, Jr still moved in a suitably 8-bit fashion, turning 90 degrees and missing the necessary frame-rates we take for granted these days.
Reilly turns in a sympathetic performance as Ralph, striving to become something more than a basic baddie while Silverman sounds as though she is only twelve as the pint-sized pocket-rocket racer Vanellope. But personally, the best performance comes from Tudyk as King Candy - his voice and mannerisms are pitch-perfect recreations of the beloved Disney voice-artist Ed Wynn and gives the character depth and personality in spades. There's plenty in the film for both children and adults to enjoy, especially if gaming has been a hobby for many years.
- The high score on the Fix-It Felix, Jr. machine is 120501. This is a reference to the birthday of Walt Disney, December 5th 1901.
- Much of the graffiti shown in Game Central Station contain references to video games such as "Sheng Long Was Here", a nod to a supposedly hidden character in Street Fighter II. The Game Central Station was modelled on Grand Central Station in New York.
- Calhoun's full name is Tamora Jean Calhoun. At no point in the film is her full name ever spoken - only in the end credits is her name revealed.
What's not to like?
As much as I wanted to really like Wreck-It-Ralph, the film never really pushes on from its fantastic opening scene. Given how much potential there is, I never felt like the film made the most of its setting or of the possible cameos. How good would it have been to see Sonic and Mario thrown into the mix - granted, there are enough snippets to make you think they're in there but in truth, there aren't many recognisable references once the action moves fully in the eye-wateringly bright world of Sugar Rush. I understand that there are ownership issues and rights but surely Disney has enough clout to get what it wants?
I also wasn't much of a fan of the amount of comedy in the film, something which noticeably dropped off after the film arrives in Sugar Rush. The film still has laughs in it but nothing like what I was hoping for - Reilly and Silverman have great comic timing but the film doesn't give them much to do, relying instead of the time-tested formula of being yourself and not listening to others, etc. etc. Story-wise, the film is a little predictable and not really anything that we haven't already seen before. It felt too similar to the likes of Frozen but with less songs and charm.
Should I watch it?
Imaginative and loaded with possibility, it's a little disappointing that Wreck-It-Ralph fails to capitalise on all of it. Having said that, the film is still a worthwhile addition to any family's movie night - it's a colourful and zany adventure for kids with plenty of nods to the rich history of video gaming that parents should enjoy as well. It also proves that Disney aren't resting on their laurels too much, given how Pixar caught them napping with Toy Story.
Great For: gamers, families, reference spotters
Not So Great For: funny bones, people wondering what might have been...
What else should I watch?
There's a reason why I mentioned Frozen above - not only does that film have a similar story behind it but it also has beautiful animation that genuinely makes you feel cold, wonderful songs and funnier, warmer characters. Yes, we've all grown sick and tired of hearing 'Let It Go' but it is a more winning effort than this film, I'm sorry to say.
It sounds like I have a downer of Wreck-It-Ralph but in truth, it's because I feel it could have been so much more. It's far better than much of the competition - the likes of Hotel Transylvania and countless sequels of Ice Age and Madagascar feel like forgettable filler in between Pixar releases. But for my money, Pixar are still the guys to beat when it comes to CG animation - pictures like WALL•E and Up are a class above, being not just entertaining but beautiful to watch and genuinely emotive.
John C. Reilly
Phil Johnston & Jennifer Lee *
Release Date (UK)
8th February 2013
Animation, Comedy, Fantasy, Family
Academy Award Nominations
Best Animated Feature
© 2017 Benjamin Cox