Directed by Rich Moore
Ralph is a computer game villain who’d rather be a hero, so sets off in search of a medal by travelling to other videogame environments…
Fun and entertaining as Wreck It Ralph is, there are two fundamental problems with this latest Disney movie. Firstly, it seems unsure who the audience is. Surely all the cameos and shout out to 30-year-old videogames are only going to resonate with older viewers who played those games back in the 1980s and 1990s (or “parents”, as Disney probably thinks of them). They’re the only ones likely to get the cameos by Q-Bert and Sonic. Conversely, the traditional Disney twee attributes given to the denizens of the girl-focused Sugar Rush game can only appeal to 12-and-under viewers. Secondly, once the novelty of the set-up wears off, Wreck It Ralph becomes the cinematic equivalent of watching someone else play a videogame, when you’d rather be directing the action yourself.
That said, the core idea is an attractive one. Mixing equal parts Who Framed Roger Rabbit (animated characters have real lives, and the surprise villain has a backstory you missed), Tron (there’s a whole world inside computers!), Monsters Inc. (being a monster is a day job) and Toy Story (when the kids are away, the toys will play), creating a universe where videogame characters clock off at the end of the day and live ‘normal’ lives is inspired. It has been in the works since the late-1980s (then under the title High Score).
Ralph (voiced in a sad sack manner by sad sack actor John C. Reilly) is the wrecker bad guy in a videogame called Fix It Felix, in which the good-hearted Felix (30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer, sounding exactly as you’d imagine) rebuilds a block of flats after it has been subjected to Ralph’s not-so-tender mercies. The game is essentially a spin on Donkey Kong. Looking for a more meaningful life in which he will be rewarded, Ralph escapes to a couple of other games—sci-fi military shooter Hero’s Duty and cotton-candy-meets-Anime racer world Sugar Rush.
Far too much time is spent in the latter environment than in the former. In fact, as the film goes on, it begins to look like the most blatant product placement attempt since Mac and Me shamelessly shilled for McDonalds. Central to the story, though, is cute girl racer Vanellope Von Schweetz (sassy Sarah Silverman), a glitchy character determined to win the race and so get reset to her former self. As the cast performed their roles together (much animation sees each performers record their roles solo), there was a lot of improvisation, and this is evident in much of Silverman’s work (especially in the incorporation of her regular Duty/doody schtick). She brightens up what otherwise may have been an unbearably twee storyline and setting.
Whether this mad mash up will manage to appeal to everyone, or in the attempt split audiences, is hard to say. It’s far from classic Disney and seems unlikely to spawn a franchise, but as a one-off celebrating the history of videogames, it is quite fun, if disposable.
Verdict: Just like the games it celebrates, Wreck It Ralph is disposable fun. 7/10
Brina J. Robb