Ralph is a bad guy. For thirty years he’s been terrorising a small apartment block – not because he wants to, but because he has to. It’s his job to go up against Fix-It Felix Jr. in the arcade game of the same name. When the game celebrates its 30th anniversary Ralph takes measures into his own hands to try and be the good guy for a change.
Hang on. Fun, conflicting characters that come to life when the humans aren’t around? You won’t be alone in thinking the film’s premise sounds familiar. That’s not to say taking some themes out of Toy Story’s book is a bad thing. It works well here, and the adult themes that crop up in Ralph (John C. Reilly)’s world (namely the support group meeting) are great fun and, to the film’s credit, the film’s opening scenes feel vibrant and fresh. People will revel in the film’s love of all things retro. See if you can count the number of references it makes – we lost count.
After failing to return to his game before the arcade opens, Ralph puts his game in jeopardy. While he’s off in Hero’s Duty trying to win himself a medal (which, in return, will win the affections the inhabitants of his game), Fix-It Felix Jr. is rendered broken. After all, what’s a video game without its villain? The main crux of the story focuses on Ralph’s attempts to maintain his dubious medal, a task that grows increasingly difficult when he crash lands in the sweet-riddled racing universe of Sugar Rush.
Here he meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitch determined to have her day at the races. Whilst the pair’s burgeoning friendship will appeal to all, it is here that the film starts to fail at reaching its full potential. There’s much fun to be had in the world of Sugar Rush and Ralph learns some important life lessons. Where the film focuses on the usual tropes of acceptance and understanding who we are, it forgets the possibilities that abound just beyond the perimeters of such a theme. Spending about two thirds of the film in Sugar Rush, the film never really explores the potential of visiting the other games; much of this visiting is done in the first 20 minutes of the film. To this effect, the film sometimes feels like an elongated short.
The time spent in Sugar Rush is fun nonetheless. Thanks to the film’s 3D, the game pops out of the screen in vivid colour and the evil genius of King Candy (Alan Tudyk) provides the film with an enjoyable nemesis. Other characters include the fantastically clichéd Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a brilliant warrior who must learn to cope with her terrible past, and some well-known faces including Pac-Man and Sonic.
One minor scruple with the film is its use of product placement – though somewhat unavoidable in live action movies, here they are actively placed in their setting. Prepare for Subway, Oreo and Nesquick cravings throughout.
Wreck-It Ralph is an enjoyable film that will appeal to both a younger audience and those wanting to venture back to the days where arcade games ruled.