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Film review: Wreck-It Ralph

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Fernando Caire

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph isn’t just a great animated film about videogame characters: it’s a great animated film. Despite all the gags, it was the heart that beats beneath its sugary surface that won over Ferando Caire.

Before the age of consoles, I had to venture to the local arcade with a fistful of quarters to get my videogame entertainment. By today’s standards, they weren’t graphically impressive, or even three-dimensional, but there was a certain charm to playing games on an arcade machine. But have you ever wondered what happens when the arcade is closed? It’s a question Wreck-It Ralph sets out to answer. Disney’s latest animated feature is an 8-bit adventure with tons of laughs and heartfelt moments that will satisfy both retro and new gamers alike.

I’m not bad: I’m just drawn that way
The story begins with Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) who, for 30 years, has settled for the role of the villain in the hit arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr. While Felix (Jack McBrayer) receives rewards for his efforts as the game’s hero, Ralph has no choice but to live in a nearby dump, hated and feared by everyone else. More than anything he wishes he could enjoy the luxuries of being the good guy. He even attends meetings with other videogame villains, hoping to find some clarity in his crisis.

In an attempt to prove he can be a hero, he sneaks into a sci-fi shooter called Hero’s Duty where he finally manages to win a medal, but not before accidentally being launched into a kart racing game called Sugar Rush that will probably give you diabetes just by looking at it. It isn’t long before his medal is stolen by Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a glitch in the game who is condemned by King Candy (Alan Tudyk) for her efforts to become a racer. Ralph slowly begins to form a friendship with Vanellope as he agrees to help her win the Sugar Rush race if she gives him back his medal.

Unfortunately, there is a darkness beneath Sugar Rush’s candy-coated surface, and Ralph has to make a difficult choice about what is right for his only friend. On top of that, the Cy-Bug he has accidentally brought with him from Hero’s Rush is threatening to destroy not only the game, but the entire arcade.

Director Rich Moore has done a fantastic job of balancing the need to make a movie that pays tribute to famous videogames with the need just to make a good movie. If you’re a gamer, it’s great to see cameo appearances by characters from Street Fighter, Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, but they never steal the show. They have a subtle presence – whether it’s Chun-Li chatting to Cammy in the background or Ryu just hanging out, having a beer – that makes the action all the more enjoyable.

And the action is surprisingly well played. Ralph has to make a moral choice about what is the right thing to do, not what is the good thing to do. Top that off with a reveal I genuinely didn’t see coming, and the story feels far more solid, and far less predictable, than the average animated film.

The voice performances are phenomenal across the board. Though I usually like Sarah Silverman as much as a trip to the dentist, it is impossible to deny the charm she brings to her tiny tomboy character. John C. Reilly’s voice does wonders for Ralph, while Jack McBrayer brings a suitable old-fashioned goodness to Fix-It Felix. But it is Jane Lynch who steals the show as Hero’s Duty’s hard-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun, bringing a lot of humour to her otherwise rather forced romance with a certain other character.

From 8-bit to widescreen
The visuals are downright stunning. Whether is it the explosive battles taking place in Hero’s Duty or the vibrant, oversaturated landscapes of Sugar Rush, there is an attention to detail here not yet seen in a Disney animated film. Every sprinkle, sparkle and speckle is visible throughout the lush and sugary world where most of the movie takes place. The third act, in particular, looks great during the race scene and final battle.

Though Wreck-It Ralph is a very entertaining film, it still delivers a strong moral message of accepting who you are while taking responsibility for your actions. Threaded between the high-adrenaline action sequences and the many funny gags, there are some heartfelt moments that will give Pixar a run for its money. It is beautiful, it is funny – and it is my favorite animated film of the year so far.

Disney’s Wreck-It-Ralph wrecks its way into theaters in North America today, then worldwide until March 2013.

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