Wreck-It Ralph Review: Disney Gets A Power-Up

WRECK-IT-RALPH-e1357078389556

rating: 3.5

Ralph is a bad guy, but he is not a bad guy. This is the base of Rich More€™s long overdue Wreck-It Ralph; an animated film about the modern toys of choice - arcade games. Ever since the unprecedented success of the Toy Story franchise, Disney have been looking for their own unique stamp on the world of digital animation. Pixar may be their sister company, but for the longest time, the Mouse House has been desperate to claim a victory all of their own. The ironic thing is, they had to literally use the same brains behind Toy Story €“ John Lasseter, in the role of producer €“ and then borrow some shade and soak up some inspiration from the ever looming shadow of Woody and Buzz, just to get the job done. Initial comparisons to Toy Story are all well and good. After all, this is a film about what the €˜toys€™ get up to after lights out, and the world they populate that is littered with familiar faces. Wreck-It Ralph, like Toy Story, is part existential kids film and part nostalgia trip. But that is where the comparisons need to end. It would be unfair to judge Wreck-It Ralph on the scale of Pixar€™s staple project, because it has its own personality, its own flourish. Wreck-It Ralph is quite simply the most culturally relevant animated movie of today. More€™s story of bad guy trying to discover new dimensions of his personality is nothing new, and the plot moves along as predictable as one would care to acknowledge. In fact, on paper, Wreck-It Ralph is quite simply €˜just another family film€™. But it is outside the story arc where the film gains much of its brilliance. Gamers of yesteryear be well prepared to spend 80% of the film chuckling to yourself about in-jokes, well timed cameos and visual cues to the arcade games of your childhood. Without wanting to give too much away, Wreck-It Ralph has a cast of characters that chart the entirety of computer game history. Some characters such as Sonic and M.Bison appear as themselves, whilst the likes of Donkey Kong (essentially Ralph himself) and the Gears of War guys (the thinly veiled Calhoun) are simulated through aura rather than physical presentation. If Iron Man 2 felt like it was made as a reason to cameo and allude to Avengers Assemble, then Wreck-It Ralph is a perfect storm of nods and winks; a film that uses character appearances to propel the film and build environment, rather than slow the film down and feel awkward. Wreck-It-Ralph-page02 The film's humour is pretty much hit and miss. It is important to remember that this is a Disney film, so it lacks the manic randomness of Dreamworks or the left field plots of Pixar. Disney has always been good at representing a world of harmless fun, where most people have a good heart; Wreck-It Ralph is no different. Other than the sinister and wildly odd King Candy (Alan Tudyk), everyone else in Ralph€™s environment is essentially a nice person. Because of this, the film tends to snicker with people rather than at them, and relies heavily on slapstick physical comedy to get the belly laughs. As previously mentioned, however, the solid mirth comes with simply pointing at the screen in recognition and seeing familiar characters in unfamiliar circumstances. The voice cast are strikingly suited to their respective characters. John C. Reilly gives Ralph the much needed exhaustion and childlike simplicity that he breaths into all his roles. His deep almost nasally voice suits the character down to the ground. In a sense, John C. Reilly is Wreck-It Ralph. Sarah Silverman does well as Vanellope. At first, she is dangerously close to making this plucky glitch the wrong side of irritating, but is saved by a change of pace just in time. Jack McBrayer brings his unique blend of campy Middle America to the character of Felix, and provides a performance that has a significant scent of Mario about it. When the moments between Ralph and Vanellope get a bit dull, it is McBrayer€™s Felix you keep watching. He€™s is a supporting role that quite literally sustains the film during its weaker moments. Then there is the mighty Jane Lynch as Calhoun. Lynch does what she does best, and gives Calhoun the kind of offbeat aggression and feminine €˜balls€™ that balance perfectly with her man-child love interest, Felix. When watching Calhoun and hearing Lynch€™s voice, you can almost suspend disbelief and see the actresses performance coming through her digital counterpart. In a world were mo-cap seems the only way to truly capture and actor€™s performance digitally, this comes as a very pleasant surprise. wreckitralph_news There seems little point in commenting on the quality of animation in Wreck-It Ralph. Outstanding might be an overstatement, but not by far. The subtle blend of 8-bit graphic ticks, and megapixel hyper-realism has been balanced to near perfection, and at once demonstrates the phenomenal talent of the artists, but also signifies the unbelievable progress in computer graphics over the last 30 years. The colour palette and signature look of each €˜world€™ makes Ralph€™s experience all the more tangible. In fact, some of the work in Wreck-It Ralph looks so good; it could even be argued that it is the Disney equivalent to Avatar. Rich More€™s direction is competent and very lovingly done, but with little to write home about in terms of visual technique. Coming from the world of TV means that More sees the world from a very literal and confined way. That being said, a director€™s work is far beyond that of visual style, and More has done an outstanding job in lampooning most facets of gaming culture, and in bringing them together logically and in a cohesive manner. It is quite hard to conclusively judge the film, as its strong points are very solid, but it also has some significant weak points. Had the story been less predictable, and the jokes been more frequent, then this could easily have put Wreck-It Ralph near to the top of the leader board. But sadly, that is not the case, and that creates some frustration for a missed opportunity. So a fair thing to say might be; Wreck-It Ralph might not be the best-written or most original animated film of its time, but it easily one of the most intelligent. l_1772341_bf1a2011Wreck-It Ralph is in UK cinemas from 8th February 2013
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Part critic-part film maker, I have been living and breathing film ever since seeing 'Superman' at the tender age of five. Never one to mince my words, I believe in the honest and emotional reaction to film, rather than being arty or self important just for cred. Despite this, you will always hear me say the same thing - "its all opinion, so watch it and make your own." Follow me @iamBradWilliams