The game is the game – Wreck-It Ralph review

Wreck-It Ralph – Featuring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and Jack McBrayer. Directed by Rich Moore. Rated PG. By Simon Miraudo.

Star Wars purists panicked when Disney announced they had been handed the keys to their beloved space saga, and were planning a seventh instalment for release in 2015. Though cries of “It’s a trap” may still be ringing in our ears, the studio’s latest animated adventure, Wreck-It Ralph, should at least temporarily allay our fears. A loving tribute to the video games of yore, it honours and understands the brands spoofed within it. The Mouse-House’s recent purchases of Marvel, The Muppets, and now Lucasfilm may paint them as an unstoppable, company-chomping Pac Man, but this delightful little picture from director Rich Moore proves the Disney brain trust still puts story and character first. That said, If Star Wars Episode 7 ends up being a total abomination, well, I apologise in advance for attempting to lift your hopes. I was blinded by all the pretty colours, I swear!

John C. Reilly voices Ralph, the villain of fictional arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr., in which he is required to smash up an apartment block while the titular do-gooder (Jack McBrayer) earnestly attempts to repair it. Think Donkey Kong with a home-renovation vibe. (Who am I to suggest the dubiousness of such a game’s addictiveness and longevity? In the age of Angry Birds and Doodle Jump, it’s been proven that we will truly play anything.) Despite his job description suggesting otherwise, Ralph is a decent guy, and he dearly wishes he had the affection and respect bestowed upon Felix Jr. Obsessed with claiming a victory medal instead of being a perpetual loser, he ventures out into Game Central Station – where all of the arcade’s power cords meet – and sneaks into the Halo-esque Hero’s Duty, before finding himself in the super-sweet Mario Cart inspired Sugar Rush. There, he finds the adorably annoying “glitch” Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who similarly dreams of one day winning a big prize. They team up to claim their medals and overthrow Sugar Rush’s deceptively evil despot King Candy (Alan Tudyk). Let the games begin! … Sorry. Too obvious, I know. I can do better.

Disney, mercifully taking a cue from Pixar rather than DreamWorks, have cast voice-appropriate actors rather than big names, and thank goodness. Reilly’s vocal cords have that perfect mixture of velvety ease and gruffness to perfectly convey the lumbering, well-intentioned Ralph. Silverman, meanwhile, absolutely goes for it; portraying her tween character more aggressively and vibrantly than any actual child actor would dare, and Vanellope feels all the more real because of it. McBrayer is, obviously, a perfect gentleman, and Jane Lynch – as the fiery Sergeant Tamora in Hero’s Duty ­- is as wickedly barb-tongued as we could have ever hoped in a PG film.

Spectacular vocal talent aside, the real stars are the animators, who convey the subtle, multi-dimensional differences between the multitudes of games across their respective eras. A countless number of legitimate characters – from Sonic, Street Fighter, and even Q*Bert – pop up throughout, likely to make the adults in the audience nod with warm recognition. However, this would all be for naught if there wasn’t any meat on that story, or a heart inside all those criss-crossing cables. Ralph and Vanellope’s relationship is reminiscent of Sulley and Boo’s from Monsters, Inc, which is about as high a compliment an animated feature can receive. Moore, screenwriters Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, as well as the whole Disney story team, place their emphasis on earning an emotional final payoff, when they so could have easily coasted on the nostalgia of parents, and the undiscerning tastes of infants. That they also inject a number of thrilling action sequences and witty asides is just icing on the very, very, very delectable cake.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Wreck-It Ralph arrives in Australian cinemas December 26, 2012.

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