8-21 February; DCA
Wreck-It Ralph is the latest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and it definitely feels fresh. The film’s focus on the world of arcade games is a marked departure from the worlds of princesses and magic of recent Disney films such as 2010’s Tangled. Although Disney has deviated from the traditional fairy tale before, this is still a refreshing take on the happily ever after story for the 21st century.
Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a video game villain, the titular Ralph, who is tired of the path of destruction that he’s forced to leave on a daily basis. Ralph works in the arcade game ‘Fix It Felix’ as the antagonist to the townspeople who live in his world. Each day he must destroy their houses so that his nemesis, Felix (Jack McBrayer), the character assumed by the children who play the game, can come to the rescue and repair the damage caused by Ralph. Ralph is then thrown to the ground by the townspeople and returns to his lonely home in a junkyard for the night. On the thirtieth anniversary of the game’s release, Ralph decides he wants to be celebrated and appreciated like Felix and makes it his mission to obtain a gold medal from one of the other arcade games. From this point on, Ralph explores the world of the arcade, encountering familiar characters such as Doctor Eggman, from the Sonic franchise, and Pac-Man along the way.
The vocal performances in the film are fantastic. Sarah Silverman is charming and funny as video game “glitch character” Vanellope Von Schweetz. As her name might suggest, Vanellope is a girl living in a game called Candy Rush. Vanellope’s presence in the game is a programming error and she agrees to team up with Ralph in an attempt to make her a proper character and to get Ralph his gold medal. John C. Reilly shines in his role as Ralph, making the audience sympathise with his plight. Children and adults alike will be rooting for him throughout the film. There is also a great performance from Jane Lynch, who plays Felix’s love interest Sergeant Calhoun. Calhoun’s character is from a much more modern first-person shooter, and as one game is shut down in the arcade for being too old to work one can’t help but notice the allusion to the changes in animation and technology which games and films undergo constantly.
Wreck-It Ralph is a 3D film, and one of the few I’ve seen that hasn’t felt like its use of 3D was a distraction or a gimmick. The film benefits from the 3D in chase sequences, and allows the audience to become fully immersed in the world along with Ralph in the instances where he explores new games. Director Rich Moore does a stellar job of fleshing out the world of the characters. You are transported into the world of arcade games without time to catch your breath.
Wreck-It Ralph has mass appeal. Adults will enjoy the film for the nostalgic value of seeing old video game characters brought back to life, as well as some of the more mature jokes that are included. Children will adore the fantasy world and the characters, with whom I’m sure they will identify.. The overall message of the film comes from the mantra of the “bad guys” as they attend their Alcoholics Anonymous style meeting and is something we can all appreciate: “I’m bad. And that’s good. I will never be good. And that’s not bad. There’s no-one I’d rather be than me.”