Games occupy a weird intangible space in our collective consciousness. Gamers spend an inordinate time with them; get to know them intimately but can never give that final physical embrace to their favourite characters – until now. The latest digital animation feature from Walt Disney animation studios is the gaming love fest seeking to be the arcade’s answer to Toy Story.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in the video-game ‘Fix-It Felix’. On the game’s 30th anniversary Ralph leaves in pursuit of a much coveted heroes medal; which triggers a series of chaotic events across the arcade.
First and foremost it’s absolutely delightful that the leading game studios for these iconic games where so accommodating with the licensing. There’s an indescribable joy that occurs when you see the characters you’ve actually controlled (Zangieff from Street Fighter – Bowser from Mario Bros. and especially the Ghost from Pacman )in their off time –or visiting ‘Bad Guy Anonymous’ as it were.
Director Rich Moore is plugged into three decades of gaming aesthetic and relishes in how the different vintages of the gaming landscape hop, skip, bump and contrast with each other. There are moments that require you to feel like you’re in a game and for you to quickly flick ‘behind the scenes’ to expand the in-between space that the players don’t see. The attention to detail in the movements of the characters, the sounds that punctuate their movements and their unique physical dimensions are perfect. Rest assured this isn’t just a giant gamer in joke – it’s textured with the detail to make those elements pop for those familiar but to serve as scenery for the uninitiated.
When you unpack the script from Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee it’s got on the tenets of a traditional fairy-tale but with the comedic flipping of archetypes a la Shrek (and the subsequent sequels spinoffs). And it’s that reliance on the ‘fairytale-redux’ formula that does make’s it feel a little familiar at some points in the film.
Reilly is perfect as Ralph. There’s probably not a more likeable human in the world and his relatable everyman essence bursts through the animation. Sarah Silverman’s little glitch Vanellope is a cheeky cherub that fortunately has enough of the comedienne’s self-awareness in the performance to make it fun. Jack McBrayer’s Felix and Jane Lynch’s Calhoun are the retro and modern gaming odd couple attempting to clean up Ralph’s mess – and they’ve have amazing chemistry.
Wreck-it Ralph, under the keen executive producer eye of Pixar titan John Lasseter, is what would happen if Toy Story & Shrek had a video game lovechild.
The pre-show animated short Paperman is joyous perfection – get in those screenings on time.
Directed by: Rich Moore
Written by: Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee
Starring (voice): John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
Wreck-it Ralph is released in Australian Cinemas on the 26th of December 2012.