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Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph

By Ben Nicholson • July 9th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 34/5
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Release date: June 3rd, 2013
Running time: 108 minutes

Director: Rich Moore
Writers: Phil Johnston & Jennifer Lee

Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch

Wreck-It Ralph

I didn’t have a games console when I was growing up. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy computer games but I never had a SNES or a Megadrive. Rather than an encyclopaedic knowledge of Mario and Sonic, my expertise was to be found on an Amstrad. I was a consummate all-rounder on Graham Gooch’s Test Cricket and dominated the leader boards of Tubaruba. When my best friend came around, we’d stay up until the small hours plotting promotion on the rudimentary football management simulator, The Boss, despite always losing 4-0 to Orient. A few years later, my time was instead consumed by the frankly wonderful Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure and Secret Agent Mission.

It was not as if I never had access to the more well known games of my generation. I would play on them when over at friends’ houses and, when I got the chance to go to an arcade. I distinctly remember frittering away my parents’ shrapnel desperately trying to complete things like Street Fighter II, Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. Then of course, emulators arrived and suddenly a whole world of games opened up before my eyes and I could go back and discover everything I’d missed; from the enslaving Bomberman to renowned classics like Mario Kart.

The memory of all of this, the most widely-known titles to those a little more niche, came flooding back when Wreck-It Ralph started. Filled with references to so many computer games that older audience members will fondly recall, it’s a loving homage to the medium. The plot zeroes in on the fictional game Fix-It Felix Jr (which you can now play on your smart-phone and is addictive in the way all of the best games are) and more importantly, it’s villain; Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly). His role in the game is to destroy Nicetown so the hero can fix it with his magical hammer and save the residents, so he’s something of a social pariah. When the day ends and the arcade closes, the characters in the game enjoy a good get-together, but Ralph is never invited to the parties; after all, he’s just the villain.

Wreck-It Ralph

Introducing a Toy Story style scenario – ‘what if the characters were alive when we’re not looking’ – all of the games in the arcade are linked by a central terminal (plug socket). Like a busy train station, it serves as a place for characters to mingle outside their own game – although a bad guy like Ralph generally sends people scurrying for cover. He does have some shoulders to cry on, however, in the form of a hilarious support group for video game baddies. Filled with firm favourites like Dr. Robotnik, King Koopa, Zangief, and led by a Pac-man ghost, they provide comfort and understanding, encouraging the dejected wrecker to embrace his position. “I am bad,” goes their pledge, “and that is good.”

This doesn’t work for Ralph, though, and so he rebels by boldly racing into other games in search of a medal like the one Felix (Jack McBrayer) gets each day for defeating him. This will prove to the inhabitants of his own game that there’s more to him, won’t it? His quest takes him on a wild adventure through two other recognisably Wreck-It Ralphstandard games and brings him into contact with a kick-ass space commando from Hero’s Duty, Calhoun (Jane Lynch), and in racing game Sugar Rush, the cheeky smart-aleck, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman).

Set largely within the candy coloured Sugar Rush, Wreck-It Ralph has more than enough to keep younger and older audience members equally enthralled. Kids are likely to enjoy the impish Vanellope and the world of candy cane trees and ice cream that our villain must save in order to become the hero of the day. If the word ‘doody’ is also likely to illicit laughs, they’ll be safe on that score too. I, on the other hand, was able to sit back and joyously revel all the games the movie references including the early 80’s platform puzzler Q*Bert and the fact that the characters all drink in Tapper’s bar.

The animation is fine – though nothing especially groundbreaking – and the voice actors are all brilliantly cast, especially Jane Lynch’s ball-breaker. Admittedly the journey is not original and the ending may be obvious from the outset, but there are laughs enough to keep everyone entertained. It will also undoubtedly offer new references with every re-watch. Some may read the films overall message as one of learning to be content with one’s lot in life and, admittedly, this is not one we want our children growing up with. Whilst I can sympathise with that interpretation, I’d argue there’s a slightly more positive spin. Maybe I just went into the film in a good mood, but its advice, in my opinion, is to accept and embrace who you are and others will come to do the same. With that in mind, I’m off to play on the computer, and I don’t care who knows it.

Wreck-It Ralph

Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson

Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.

His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.

Ben has his own film site, ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE, and you can follow him on Twitter @BRNicholson.

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