Review: Wreck-It-Ralph

Directed by: Rich Moore
Written by:Rich Moore, Phil Johnson, Jim Reardon, Jennifer Lee
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O'Neill
Released: December 26, 2012
Grade: A-

Wreck-It-Ralph
If you asked people to name their favourite animated features, many will list films from the Toy Story franchise.  Even I can admit shedding a tear during Toy Story 3.  It’s such a simple yet beautiful idea – a world where the toys we play with come alive whenever we leave the room.  The emotional element kicks in when the child grows up and the toys are no longer required.

Wreck-It-Ralph takes that same concept and applies it to the world of video games.  It’s a cool idea.  By day, kids flock to an amusement arcade to play their favourite games.  By night, the doors are closed, the lights are switched off and the characters develop a will of their own.  They can move between the games through the power cables and they often hang out in the main adaptor – known as Game Central Station.

Not all the game characters are happy however.  After three decades of playing the same bad guy over-and-over, Wreck-It-Ralph (Reilly) is starting to show signs of depression and fatigue.  He’s tired of destroying things while the hero of his game, Fix-It Felix Jr., (McBrayer) gets all the love and attention.

It reaches the point where starts attending a self-help group, known as Bad-Anon, where video game villains can get together and talk about their problems.  Regular attendees include Clyde from Pac-Man, Bowser from Super Mario Bros and Smoke and Kano from Mortal Kombat.  They lean on each other for support and recite their creed – “I am bad, and that’s good.  I will never be good, and that’s not bad.  There is no one I’d rather be, than me.”

Wreck-It-Ralph still isn’t satisfied though.  He wants to be the good guy for once.  Going rogue, he disguises himself and slips into a neighbouring video game, Hero’s Duty.  He’s after the game’s top prize, a large gold medal, and thinks that wearing it around his neck will finally give him the respect and honour that he deserves.

Oops.  It doesn’t quite work out that way.  Ralph’s foolishness kick starts a chain reaction of events that threatens many of these characters.  Because he’s no longer present in his own game, the manager of the arcade thinks that it’s “out of order” and that it’s time to permanently pull the plug.  Two other games are threatened when a nasty green Cy-Bug escapes from Hero’s Duty and slips into a racing game known as Sugar Rush.

The idea of a video game movie has been floating around Disney for close to 20 years but no one was able to perfect a screenplay that fitted with the material.  It took the arrival of writer-director Rich Moore (who started his career on The Simpsons) to finally pull it off and create something that is equally amusing for both children and adults.

Wreck-It-Ralph is one of the year’s best animated features (if not the best) and it’s the attention to detail in the tightly-written script that gives it such an edge.  I love the way in which the intricacies of the video game world are explained including the plight of forgotten game characters and what can often lie behind a “glitch”.

The broad premise also allows the animation team to vary the look and feel of the film.  Within the boundaries of the Wreck-It-Ralph game, everything is rigid and restrictive – from the movement of the characters to the design of the main building.  This can be easily contrasted with the action-packed environment in the technologically advanced Hero’s Duty and the silly, colourful world that can be found inside Sugar Rush.  The use of traditional computer game sound effects is also a nice touch.

While there’s plenty of fun to be had, the film follows in the same vein as other Disney releases and contains a strong underlying theme about the value of standing up for one’s self.  This is explored not just through Ralph but an important subplot where he befriends Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman), a 9-year-old girl who dreams of being a racer within Sugar Rush.

I’m sure it’ll help if you were a fan of arcade games growing up but as someone from the complete opposite background, I can vouch that Wreck-It-Ralph is still wonderfully entertaining and a perfect choice for families over the Christmas school holidays.

You can read my interview with director Rich Moore by clicking here.