A Disney animation where when the kids backs are turned, characters interact in their own secret society. It all sounds very Toy Story and with John Lasseter taking an executive producer role, it’s unsurprising. Though the initial concept is arguably borrowed from a past success, Wreck-It Ralph has originality, it’s cleverly written and a lot of fun. The titular Ralph, a bad guy gone good, played by John C Reilly is villain of arcade game Wreck-It Ralph where his sole responsibility is to leave a path of carnage wherever he lays his big clumsy fists, for hero ‘Fix-It Felix Jr’ to clean up his mess and be adored. Ralph is tired and lonely in his job, yearning to be a hero, to be part of something and goes on a mission to win a medal to prove he can do good and be welcomed into a penthouse suite in ‘Niceland’ with all the other good guys.
Ralph meets Vanellope Von Schweetz when he finds himself in the game Sugar Rush, a Mario-Kart-esque environment that will rot your teeth. She is a glitch, which means she doesn’t run properly and fades in and out involuntarily though she defends her condition, referring to it as ‘pyxlexia’. This idea is very clever and helps drive the narrative, both the characters having their flaws but seeing past this to assist one another to find happiness. It all sounds a little cheesy, but it is a Disney film, and Wreck-It Ralph fortunately doesn’t lose sight of this. The makers of this are clearly passionate about video games and there are continuous gaming references a great variety of cameos from gaming legends such as Sonic The Hedgehog and Pacman to please fan boys, who can spot their favourites but also the more obscure characters that only serious gamers will recall.
The voice casting is spot on, John C Reilly seeming so at ease with his character, possessing the suitably dopey voice of a loveable galoot, while evoking enough emotion that the audience quickly gets behind Ralph on his quest. Sarah Silverman also excels here as the initially irritating Vanellope. Parallels can obviously be made between the arcs of Vanellope and Toy Story’s Jessie where the character is at first moody and unlikeable, going against the hero then a vulnerability is revealed, creating sympathy and the character grows into a hero. Very formulaic but the system works and Vanellope steals the latter part of the film with quirky one liners, Silverman clearly enjoying herself, delivering snappiness and perfect comic timing. I should also mention Glee’s Jane Lynch who is top of the pile in the supporting cast as the Gears of War like character Calhoun who enjoys an amusing love interest sub plot with Fix-It Felix Jr.
Wreck-It Ralph is full of fun and is visually exciting, particularly in Sugar Rush, as Ralph’s home game location ‘Niceland’ is rather dull, not living up to the name. The bouncy script provides a well balanced combination of laughs and heart, and like the industry it represents, I don’t see why the franchise can’t go on and on, updating year on year. I would love to see what the next level could bring.