movie film review | chris tookey

Wreck-It Ralph

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  Wreck-It Ralph Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
6.67 /10
Voices: John C. Reilly , Alan Tudek, Sarah Silverman
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Directed by: Rich Moore
Written by: Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee

Released: 2012
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 93

Exciting, innovative and funny.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The latest animated blockbuster from Disney looks as if it’s come from Pixar. That is no accident, since it’s executive-produced by John Lasseter, the man who brought us The Incredibles, Toy Story and plenty of other Pixar greats. Wreck-it Ralph can rival those in terms of spectacular visuals, imagination and verve.

I liked it a lot, although many over 40 are going to find it noisy, garish and brash. There’s also a sentimental streak which is very Disneyish but slows down the second half; the soppy stuff may ingratiate itself with a juvenile female audience, but will slow it down for boys from 5 to 65.

One magic ingredient will endear it to anyone who feels affection for arcade games from the 1980s onwards. Unlike Super Mario Bros (1993) and the Resident Evil shoot-‘em ups, it’s a clever pastiche of gameplay design – something that’s never before been achieved quite so triumphantly on film. In terms of pop-culture awareness, this is the most exhilarating romp since Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.

If nothing in the last paragraph made any sense to you, please accept my apologies. Wreck-It Ralph is probably not for you.

Superbly voiced by John C. Reilly, Ralph is a massive, huge-fisted “bad-guy” from an ancient, 8-bit arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. Gaming fans will recognise that he’s the human equivalent of the gorilla in Donkey Kong. Ralph feels miffed that the other characters in his game don’t appreciate his talent for destruction, and that only goody-goody Felix Jr. – who repairs the building that Ralph tears down - wins medals.

After the arcade closes for the night, Ralph goes to an Alcoholics Anonymous-type encounter group with other “bad guy” arcade-game characters, and together they moan about feeling under-appreciated.

But Ralph decides to do something and smuggles himself into a more technically advanced, shoot-‘em-up game in which all-American heroes led by a superwoman officer (Jane Lynch from Glee) destroy giant Cy-bugs in a terrifying sci-fi world. “When did video games get so violent and scary?” whimpers Ralph.

From there, Ralph escapes to Sugar Rush, a brightly coloured race game aimed at smaller children, where he meets an annoying little girl, Vanellope von Schweetz (marvellously voiced by comedienne Sarah Silverman. She’s a glitch – a fault in the coding – who needs his help. This Japanese anime world may appear cosy and brightly coloured but it contains its own dangers, as Ralph soon finds out. “What’s going on in this candy-coated heart of darkness?” he wails.

The screenplay by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee is inspired for the first forty minutes, but making room for racing and sentiment makes the second half of the movie drag. It’s the first 45 minutes that give the film the status of a minor classic; the second half, which has the free-wheeling loopiness of a road movie on acid, struggles to reach the level of Pixar’s Cars.

Another problem is that the script fails to think through the gaming aspects, and doesn’t sufficiently integrate the human player. For example, Felix Jr. seems to rebuild buildings on his own and always seems to triumph over Ralph. Where’s the fun and game-play in that? But that reservation only occurred to me in retrospect.

Wreck-It Ralph is witty, ingenious and entertaining, a technical and creative breakthrough on a par with Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, 25 years ago. Some older viewers may find it frenzied, cluttered and obnoxious, and lament the way the second half degenerates into schmaltz and childishness. I loved the first half so much that I was prepared to tolerate the shortcomings of the second.

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