"Wreck-It-Ralph" (2012)

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)
Directed by: Rich Moore
Running time: 108 minutes

Happy Holidays everybody! Yes, it’s that time of year again when Tom recovers from dealing with the legions of morons who populate retail stores in celebration of  Santa’s birthday and plays catch up on the many movies of the last week that came out. But let us begin with the feel good movie of the season: Wreck-It-Ralph!

Now Showing this week is Wreck-It-Ralph, directed by Rich Moore and made by Disney Animation Studios (but not the Pixar branch!). The film revolves around a person named Ralph, and he is a video game character living inside one of the many game machines in a gaming arcade. Ralph is the villain of a game titled “Fix-It-Felix Jnr.” and for the last thirty years he has had to deal with being defeated by the game’s main character Felix and seeing him be rewarded for his heroism while Ralph must always go back to his home in the dump and wait for the next game to begin. However, Ralph has decided he has had enough of this routine and is determined to prove to the other characters in his game that he can be a good guy for a change, and he sets off into the other video games of the arcade to try and be the winning player. But Ralph meets some other game characters along the way, some whose plight is more severe than his; and what started as a selfish quest then becomes one of good will.

Thematically, Wreck-It-Ralph is a lot like every other kids movie that has been made. The main character is fed up with their life, sets out to change it, is confronted with situations that help them realise who they are and they realise that being who they are isn’t so bad. It is cliched, certainly, but it is a plot and character structure that works and Wreck-It-Ralph really sells it. It is so committed to the cliche that it doesn’t feel like a tired story, but instead a compelling one.

But the real selling point for this film is that the cliched story-line takes place within one of the most original settings that I have seen in recent years: the realm of video games. Wreck-It-Ralph is like Toy Story with video game characters. The characters live within their arcade machines, with even a glass screen in the sky that allows them to see out into the human world. Their lives depend on the human players, for without them they are nothing and should their game machine be unplugged then they are forever doomed to being game-less and alone in Game Central Station. Game Central Station is the interior of the power-board that all the arcade machines are plugged into, and it is the hub through which game characters can leave one game and travel to another. They literally travel through the power cables to all the different machines and enter their game worlds and it is a fantastic setting for an epic adventure such as this one! I commend the filmmakers for finding a way to make blending the worlds and characters of various different classic games (such as “Mario”, “Sonic” and “Street Fighter”) work and that doesn’t for one moment feel silly.

A large part of that success is through the visual style. The film is presented in the amazing CGI that Disney is known for, but it incorporates so many little aspects of retro gaming and that makes it truly spectacular. The film occasionally jumps out of a scene to show you what it looks like from the human’s perspective, with all the characters rendered in old 8-bit graphics. Some of the characters in “Fix-It-Felix Jnr.” move in single frames much like classic character sprites from older games. It all looks wonderful and really makes Wreck-It-Ralph a joy to simply look at.

And lastly, the acting in the film is quite good. I would not go so far as to deem in Oscar worthy, but all the performers have solid commitment to their roles and do a fantastic job at selling the urgency of such strange problems like deletion and being a gaming “glitch”. The relationship that forms between Ralph (played by John C. Reilly) and a cart racer Venelope (Sarah Silverman) becomes genuinely touching, especially towards the latter act of the film. The one complaint I would have from a character perspective (and this isn’t specifically the actor’s fault) is that of the villain of the film, who I shan’t reveal for spoiler reasons. The villain just seemed a little under developed and the twist reveal of their true identity was not as big a shock as I feel it could have been.

Now I know that in this holiday period it will be very tempting to simply rush out to see the biggest movie of the season, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but I do implore you not to pass up Wreck-It-Ralph. This film was a delight and one that should not be missed, especially if you enjoy your video games. It really is the video game movie we’ve all been waiting for.

See you next time!

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