Wreck-It Ralph could easily have gone down one of two routes. It could either have been the best concept Disney had ever come up with or a self-destructive pile of crap, showering dead pixels onto the hearts of retro gamers. It manages to avoid the latter, but only after a tricky start. The rest of the film is a happy barrage of action and gummy bears as Ralph travels through different gaming worlds and we’re shown the bizarre (but wonderful) imaginations of Wreck-It Ralph‘s creators.
We first meet Ralph in his game (“home”) Fix-It Felix Jr, crushing bricks with his giant fists as Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) repairs the damage with his golden hammer (like Thor, only more hillbilly). This is very much the routine of Ralph’s life – just playing the bad guy – and he’s had enough. After a few AA-style meetings (“Bad Anon”), Ralph decides to prove that he can also be a hero and soon discovers that he can earn a hero’s medal in the first-person shooter game, Hero’s Duty. All hell breaks loose after an attack from the Hero Duty‘s enemies (Cy-Bugs) and Ralph accidentally launches himself (and the medal) into Sugar Rush; a kart-racing in a land full of sweets and run by a fierce but gleeful ruler, King Candy (Tudyk).
The saccharine setting of Sugar Rush is where we live out the rest of the film, amidst candy cane trees and jelly baby rocks (one can’t help but wonder whose fun job it was to secure the rights to feature certain commercial sweets/products in the film) and it’s also where we meet Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman) – a “glitch” and wannabe racer. Glitches have a severe case of “Pixelitus”, which essentially means their game code is faulty. Genius. Through Vanellope, Ralph learns the values of friendship and bravery, and battles to save the fate of the arcade world.
Wreck-It Ralph certainly came from the same womb as Monsters Inc. Both are innovative and constantly surprising, always finding new ways to breathe logic into nonsense. The world of Sugar Rush is a diabetic’s worst nightmare and a child’s fantasy; sinking into Nesquik-sand, getting stuck on a lollipop – WHAT TORTURE. But underneath all the sugarcoated silliness and sentimental sludge lies a heartfelt story between a soft-hearted villain and a little girl, somewhat reminiscent of Sully and Boo, with Sugar Rush acting as the setting for the characters’ ‘growth’. The digital scope of the land is exquisite, with every minute detail finely illustrated and sharpened (including every little sprinkle and jelly baby in Vanellope’s hair). Even lumbering oaf Ralph is cautiously drawn and craftily animated so that his square body is a brutish force in the fragile forests of candy canes (and you can bet it’s his fists that are it’s 3D highlights).
Sarah Silverman may be the bane of some people’s existence, but she does a remarkably good job for the voice of Vanellope, who is both irritating and cute. King Candy’s voice sounds like the Mad Hatter’s in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (Ed Wynn) – which, thinking about it, would have been a genius move for the character of King Candy, had Ed Wynn not died over 40 years ago. Nevertheless, Tudyk brings a colourful range of personality to the character and shall we even talk about how perfect a fit Jane Lynch is for the role of Sergeant Calhoun? Like a glove. Wreck-It Ralph succeeds mostly from a gripping storyline, which sounds strange in a Disney film. But seriously, there’s always something happening, be it an attack from a Cy-Bug virus, Menthos exploding in the Diet Cola Hot Springs or running away from the donut and chocolate éclair policemen. Think you were hungry in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs? Think again.
Praise aside, Wreck-It Ralph sometimes tries too hard to be great, particularly at the beginning. In attempting to establish sympathy with our main character, the dialogue becomes stodgy and the film can feel like a lesson in how-to-be-good. Yes, fine, we have to remember that this is a kid’s film, but in a world where reality TV is considered the norm, would it not be slightly more bearable for adults not to have to sift through the oh-so-obvious moral heaviness? This is being nit-picky though, as Wreck-It Ralph actually has no major failures. It may not be on the same level as certain Disney classics, but it beats some of Disney’s recent drivel (I’m looking at you, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta!). Retro 80s gamers certainly won’t be upset either; in my opinion, the classic arcade games (like Fix-It Felix Jr.) aren’t ruined at all – they’re celebrated. Sappy schmappy, Wreck-It Ralph is a great family film and you should all run to the cinemas now with a big bucket of candy and ENJOY.