Wreck-It Ralph is the latest variation on the Disney Be-Yourself sermon the studio has been preaching for decades. The big surprise is that it’s actually really, really good.
The eponymous Ralph is the villain of a 1980s arcade game who lives in a peculiar Tron-esque gaming parallel universe. Tired of being the unappreciated bad guy and determined to be a hero, Ralph runs away, making an ill-advised visit to a militaristic soldiers and giant bugs shoot-em-up (“When did video games get so violent and scary?”). This is followed by a lengthy sojourn in a game called Sugar Rush; a surreal, candy land racing game where Ralph befriends a mysterious “glitch” called Vanellope – a girl who the decidedly slippery King of Sugar Rush is trying to eliminate.
Twists and turns ensue in the inspired screenplay, along with colourful, eye-popping action and some great jokes (one particular Wizard of Oz gag is nigh-on guaranteed to bring the house down). There are lots of computer game in-jokes, some of them quite nostalgic, but even if you’re a gaming ignoramus there is still plenty to enjoy. The central relationship between Ralph and Vanellope is funny and touching, and there is a hilarious love story subplot between the gung-ho heroine of the soldiers/bugs game and the mild-mannered Fix-it-Felix, the hero of Ralph’s game.
Even if certain elements are borrowed almost wholesale from Monsters Inc or Toy Story, this film gives them a fresh spin so gets away with referencing the afore-mentioned Pixar classics. Genuine jeopardy is introduced into the bizarre rules of the video gaming universe; the greatest dangers being the Out of Order sticker and getting killed outside your own game, which means actual death not just a lost life.
Obviously it goes without saying that the animation is stunningly rendered (under the excellent direction of Rich Moore). Additionally the vocal talent is all spot-on – including John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman in the lead roles. It is perhaps a little overlong, but Wreck-It Ralph is nevertheless a wonderful piece of entertainment for old and young alike.
One more thing: Don’t arrive late and miss the supporting cartoon short – an absolutely charming, wordless, monochrome love story called Paperman.