Disney weaves a digital toy story.
Although Wreck-It Ralph is about the relatively new (40 year old) craze of videogames, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more traditionally structured movie. The narrative is so obvious, in fact, that it almost feels as though the gaming theme was plastered on to a much more generic film to court the juicy cash of childless, adult IT workers as well as that of the breeding classes.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Riley) is an 8-bit bad guy from a retro game housed in an arcade. The characters which populate the various cabinets are of course sentient, getting on with their own lives once the doors have closed for the day. But like all bad guys, Ralph has a hard time fitting in even though he’s just doing his job.
In order to win the approval of his peers, he ‘game jumps’ into a light gun title called Hero’s Duty to win a medal, symbolic of his ability to be a good guy. But upon doing so, Ralph is clumsily catapulted into kart racer Sugar Rush with an alien bug in tow. Here he meets up with glitchy outcast Venllope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) and eventually agrees to help her to build a car and beat her rivals on the track, winning redemption for them both.
The movie blends fictional yet authentically rendered videogames with some officially licensed characters, although these recognisable faces are used only in the early stages, presumably to avoid excessive costs. The digital world is carefully, colourfully realised and is imaginative enough to just about avoid feeling generic. Although seeing it in 3D will obviously dull the pallet and temper the brightness, which makes a 2D viewing advisable.
Wreck-It Ralph has been kicking around Disney since the late 1980s, which explains why the arcade setting feels so anachronistic, particularly in the UK where coin-op gaming has all but died out. It’s not as funny or reference-filled as some of the studio’s other recent solo efforts, falling short of matching Tangled in particular. But it’s also far from a disaster and will pummel kids into submission with its big characters and bold design. Parents can either join in the fun, or use the time to cry/sleep.