Sometimes fate swings in your favour and you get everything that you want – purely by chance. On the other hand fate can be one mean son of a gun! Now, switch “fate” with trans-Atlantic movie release schedules and you’ll get where I’m coming from here. Folks dwelling in the USA sometimes have things pretty sweet with relation to film releases; you get most of the big releases first. This means that back over here in the UK we have to endure endless gushing and praise over films we won’t see for days, weeks or even months. One film that’s been plaguing me since November 2012 is one that I’ve been eagerly following for some time… Wreck-It Ralph. But my time has come. Now the question is simply how on Earth can this film live up to all of my expectations? Is it a victim of its own hype in my mind?
Why did Wreck-It Ralph appeal so much to me? Well, it’s essentially designed for my demographic – people that grew up in the 80’s with a healthy interest in video games. The kind of people that were raised on 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. A time when gamepads only had a stick / d-pad to control where you go and 2-3 buttons to control your actions. The music was marvellous and the games were hard as nails. Sure, they looked awful by today’s standards, but they were damn fun. I “invested” much of my younger years in those consoles and still enjoy my forays into the modern world of gaming… Wreck-It Ralph draws on all of this. And to spectacular effect.
Wreck-It Ralph focuses on Ralph (John C. Reilly) – the bad guy in an old-school arcade game called “Fix-It Felix”. Ralph is the smashing and bashing bad guy that harasses an apartment block and it’s up to the player, as Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), to scale the building and throw him off the top. Much like the Donkey Kong – Super Mario dynamic in days gone by. The problem? Ralph’s fed up of never being praised and constantly being feared by everyone. Sure, he’s got his (AWESOME) bad guys’ support network, but he longs for more. So he goes Turbo. He switches games in a quest for that medal. He runs the gamut in Hero’s Duty where he meets the Alpha Female commando Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and through a series of events ends up in another game: Sugar Rush where he’s got to deal with the chaos caused for him by a young “karter” called Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). This lands him and everyone he’s known in one hell of a lot of trouble…
But before I really delve into my review, can I just draw focus to Disney’s short that precedes Wreck-It Ralph? The beautifully animated “Paper Man“. Everyone’s accustomed to a little animation before their feature film with a Disney animated movie, and this is simply one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautifully made and has lashings of humour and touching moments. It has a total of zero lines of dialogue too. I urge you to turn up on time for your showing, as you’ll miss one of the sweetest shorts I’ve seen in quite some time if you don’t.
OK, I’m back with Wreck-It Ralph. What can I say? Where to begin? Let’s kick off with the look of it. Disney have clearly taken their time adapting a video game world into the animated world. They have incorporated so many nods to the old 8 and 16-bit console generation: from the stunted way in which the citizens of the Fix-It Felix universe jerk around the screen to the innumerable cameos they’ve squeezed in from real video game properties. Although Wreck-It Ralph is a totally made up game to give us our protagonists, you can expect to see everyone from Sonic the Hedgehog to Kano from Mortal Kombat to Pac-Man from… erm… Pac-Man. They’ve really gone to town on acquiring licenses from Sega, Nintendo, Atari and many other publishing houses to use their characters. I can’t emphasise enough the effect this has on making the world so believable. It also pleases the folks like me that know every beep and boop from so many video game franchises over the years.
Whilst I could gush on about all the neat cameos Disney has wedged in there, I’ll come back on track with the review! One of the things that entertained me most was the plot. I thought I had it all figured out going off the trailers alone, but there were enough little flourishes to keep it exciting and entertaining. Although an animated film from Disney that’s aimed at a younger demographic is never going to be Cloud Atlas, it’s nice to see that intrigue can be maintained. Whilst we’re on the kids front, there’s more than enough in the movie to keep them happy too. Although the film has countless nods to retro video games and other things that only an adult would understand, it’s definitely got its core audience catered for too. Laughs are not in short supply in Wreck-It Ralph.
It’s unusual for me to credit voice work in an animated film, but you have to give credit to the casting crew here, as each voice really “suits” the character. I couldn’t imagine anyone else but Jack McBrayer voicing Felix, or John C. Reilly voicing Ralph. They’re perfect fits. Similarly, I’ve never been a voracious fan of either Jane Lynch or Sarah Silverman but they really do credit to their on-screen characters. You know what to expect from Lynch by now – she’s the hard ass. Always has been, always will be. This makes her a perfect match for the take no crud Calhoun. And although Silverman is putting on the voice to come across like a young child, it all sounds very natural. Good work folks, good work… everyone involved.
Wreck-It Ralph definitely lived up to the lofty expectations I’d created in my mind. I knew I’d get all the video game references from yesteryear, but I didn’t bank on an enjoyable story and the beautiful touches that the animation team have layered into the movie. For the second time in a week, it’s great to see that my expectations have been met by a juggernaut of a movie. Wreck-It Ralph may just be the start of a beautiful new franchise from Disney. Let’s not scupper it now guys, OK? This could be the next Toy Story. A Toy Story for the modern video game generation.
It’s always nice to have your expectations met. It’s not so nice to be kept in limbo whilst everyone else enjoys the latest buzz movie. It’s like having a birthday party where everyone else can play with your presents, but you’ve got to wait a further two months. In the meantime, all of your friends have told you how much fun they’ve been having and you start to stew in your own juices until you feel like Kano from Mortal Kombat and want to tear their heart out. Fatality. That being said… what goes around, comes around. Thank you Disney and Marvel for choosing to pull a role-reversal for Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. We may only get them a week before the US, but what a week it’ll be!