Sunday, 10 February 2013
Review: Wreck-It Ralph (UK Cert PG)
For anyone who spent their formative years button bashing in a video game arcade, Wreck-It Ralph will be a lovely slice of nostalgia. Even if you didn't, this is an enjoyable homage to the format and a damn good film to boot. Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the Donkey Kong-like villain of arcade classic Fix-It Felix Jr. which has been going for thirty years. Tired of being the bad guy, he dreams of being a hero and so jumps out of his game to try and get a winner's medal. However, Ralph jumping out of his game has consequences.
There's a wonderful array of animation styles throughout the film: each world has its own distinctive look, from the 8-bit world of Fix-It Felix Jr, through to the gritty futuristic setting of Hero's Duty (the first game Ralph jumps to, in order to win a medal; think Halo and you're halfway there) and the candy-coloured Sugar Rush (essentially Mario Kart on E-Numbers). It's a visually sumptuous film.
It's also a retro-gamer's dream with cameos from many videogame characters- at Ralph's Bad Guys Anonymous Meeting, there's Zangief and M. Bison from Street Fighter II, Dr. Robotnik from Sonic The Hedgehog, Bowser from Super Mario Bros. and Clyde the orange ghost from Pac-Man. In Game Central Station, you can see everyone from Q-Bert to Sonic. One can only imagine the logistical nightmare of trying to secure all the rights for these characters. Repeated viewings would no doubt spot many more easter eggs that had been put in.
The voice cast is just superb: Reilly's great as Ralph and Jane Lynch is an absolute riot as Hero Duty's Sergeant Calhoun, a tough-as-nails soldier 'programmed with the most tragic back-story ever'. Jack McBrayer is great as the gee-shucks Felix whilst Alan Tudyk steals the show as Sugar Rush's ruler King Candy. Sarah Silverman also appears as Vanellope Von Schweetz, a racer in Sugar Rush who is an outcast as she's a 'glitch'. She gives a strong performance even if the character is a little annoying in places (part for the course in a film like this, though).
It's the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope that forms the back-bone of the story. She takes the medal he's 'won' in Hero's Duty and uses it as the fee to enter the Sugar Rush free-form race to decide which characters can be selected to be played by the game-player. When she wins, she'll give him back the medal. What starts out as mismatched characters forced to work together obviously mellows into something approaching friendship (Ralph's an adult, Vanellope's a child so there's never a suggestion of anything romantic) so there's a good deal of emotion when, at one crucial moment, that relationship is subverted. Of course, friendship wins out and sacrifices must be made but you're not deluged under a saccharine wave of emotion when it does happen.
Surprisingly, it''s a good deal darker than you expect from a Disney movie. The world of Hero's Duty is dark and the Cy-Bugs are quite creepy- when they infest Sugar Rush, there's quite an abrupt turn away from that cutesy-pie world. The nominal villain of the piece might also be a little scary for younger kids when they're finally revealed. Speaking as an adult, the darker elements were a pleasing addition which will give the adults something to enjoy (as well as playing Spot The Game Character)
Before the screening I saw was a beautiful animated short- a boy-meets-girl story called Paperman which is well worth seeing. Stick around to the end of the credits as well, there's a lovely little tip of the hat to a retro game. I'm not a huge gamer- I'm the very epitome of the phrase 'casual gamer'- but I enjoyed this immensely.
Rating: 4 out of 5