By Carys Dennison.
Disney’s 52nd animated feature comes smashing towards us in the form of an 8-bit, 643 pound all-destroying giant. His name is Wreck-It Ralph, and boy is he angry. It is important to note that your newest dose of family-friendly animated action is oddly refreshing, combining the worlds of movie magic and video-games in a both fascinating and well-executed way.
Directed by Rich Moore and co-written by Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, Disney’s new milestone is a heart-warming tale of friendship that has the gooey thematic message of self-acceptance oozing out at its very core. Rich Moore, who you may recognise from directing episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama, excellently orchestrates an entertaining roller-coaster ride packed full of the obligatory bumps and fun action-adventure. In a film that’s very own characters are electronic creations, the script itself is very impressive in how it creates emotive and humanistic dialogue that feels far from artificial in nature. With Pixar’s creative overlord John Lasseter as executive producer, it’s not hard to understand why critics are raving about how Wreck-it Ralph feels like a Pixar film wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
Wreck-It Ralph is set in Litwak’s Arcade, an arguably retro setting for our contemporary times. Similar to the Pixar classic Toy Story, we are given a sneak peek into what happens when the lights go out on an arcade full of video-game characters. After dark, the characters are able to travel freely via electronic circuits connected to the Grand Central Station, a communal platform that allows entrance to every game featured in the arcade. It is creative ideas like this that make the film extremely innovative in its stylised execution.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the neighbourhood villain and general terroriser of the game Fix-It Felix. Reversely, hammer-wielding Felix (Jack McBrayer) is the hero who, incidentally, fixes everything Ralph destructs. Tired of his role of repeatedly destroying the same building into pixel pieces, Ralph now wants to become one of the good guys. It is on the 30th anniversary of Fix-It Felix that he proclaims to the local support group for bad guys, BAD-ANON, that he no longer wants to be a villain. This affirmation spins group leader, Pac-Man’s Clyde, into a blue frenzy. To those not familiar on a first-name basis, it’s one of the blue ghosts that we all ran away from in mad fury when the moment of terror stroke. In fact, a highly enjoyable aspect of Wreck-It Ralph is the video-game character cameos and references that feature regularly throughout, giving you a sense of warm (or cold, depending on how good a player you were) nostalgia each time.
Returning to his bed of bricks that night, Ralph ventures a few feet away to where everyone else in his game resides, the Fix-It Felix mansion. Here, he is hurt to find that he is unwelcome at the anniversary celebration party. Wanting to prove himself as worthy of deserving a place in the mansion, Ralph ventures off into the electric circuits to win a medal and subsequently win the respect of his game’s characters.
Hero’s Duty is Ralph’s first port of call. Hero’s Duty is a first-person-shooter plagued by deadly Cy-Bugs that fly out from a suitably ominous tower that bears a visual resemblance to the terror of Lord of the Ring’s Mount Doom. Leading your mission is Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a female gun-wielding hard-ass who is pre-programmed with a tragic back-story to boot. Calhoun just has time to verbally emasculate her soldiers before Ralph’s first battle commences. Needless to say, it is far from a success. Still determined to claim his medal, Ralph later climbs his way to the top of Mount Doom, smashes his way inside and then tap-dances around sleeping Cy- Bugs to retrieve his prize: The Medal of Heroes. The celebration is cut short as he accidentally awakens the Cy-Bugs upon his exit and it is not long before Ralph is hurtling in a spaceship towards his next destination.
Ralph lands up in Sugar Rush, a very pink and very bright kart-racing game that is complete with decorative candy-cane trees and all the sweets you could ever dream of. Here, Ralph meets the aptly named Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a snarky child who soon steals Ralph’s medal in order to use it as gold to enter the local race and prove her talent. Vanellope is what is known in the gaming world as a glitch, a fate that brands her as the token underdog to all who reside in the sugar-filled land. Now begins the journey into Ralph’s quest for true heroism and the inevitable havoc it ensues. However, more importantly, here also begins a heart-warming friendship that lays the thematic concrete for the entire film.
The voice-acting throughout the film is executed very well and forms a strong base in bringing the character’s personalities to life. Particular recognition should be given to Sarah Silverman, who completely nails capturing the quintessential essence of a bratty child found in Vanellope. Ralph is also superbly voiced by John C. Reilly, giving him a tired and tried tone that suits well to the character’s frustration. Jane Lynch, who you may know from that musical television series, Glee, voices Sergeant Calhoun in excellent cut-throat fashion. Fans of 30 Rock will also be pleased to see Jack McBrayer voicing your squeaky-toned good guy Felix in suitably high-pitched execution.
Wreck-It Ralph is certainly visually impressive in all its colourful and high-resolution glory. Disney’s new fancy bidirectional reflectance distribution functions are debuted and put to practice, creating tidier reflections for all to see but probably not notice. Special effects work well to mix the retro and new, even utilising a nifty Pac-Man grid to show members of BAD-ANON leaving their weekly session earlier on in the film. With a soundtrack composed by Henry Jackman (Monsters vs. Aliens) and original songs by the likes of Skrillex, Owl City, Buckner & Garcia, Wreck-It Ralph also boasts a hefty music selection that keeps up well with the fast-paced action of the film.
To put it in the appropriate perspective, the film has a centre of mushy sweetness wrapped up in a hard-cased and action-ready shell. The obvious child-friendly message can nicely be summed up with the bad guy affirmation that is featured throughout: I am 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.
We hope you're enjoying BRWC. You should check us out on our social channels, subscribe to our newsletter, and tell your friends. BRWC is short for battleroyalewithcheese.