Wreck It Ralph

Directed by Rich Moore. Voices of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Dennis Haysbert G cert, general release, 107 min

Directed by Rich Moore. Voices of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Dennis Haysbert G cert, general release, 107 min

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

Directed by Rich Moore. Voices of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Dennis Haysbert G cert, general release, 107 min

Now, this was a film just waiting to happen. Over the past decade, digital animators have given life to fish, rats, cars, insects, toys and dinosaurs. How come nobody thought to exploit a class of imaginary being that already inhabited the pixel universe?

Wreck It Ralph somewhat poignantly reminds us that the first generation of videogames are now sufficiently distant in time to trigger nostalgic sobs among the middle-aged. When we were playing these things in the early 1980s, contemporaneous grey-beards were waxing about the birth of rock’n’roll and rise of James Dean. Jeez!

Today’s younger viewers – though sure to enjoy Disney’s latest feature animation – may need parents to explain the location to them. Wreck It Ralph takes place in something called an “arcade”. Listen, carefully, Biff. In the olden days, children needed to leave the couch if they wanted to play a videogame.

Pointing towards certain legal complications, the film combines supporting players from real video-games with lead performers from sly pastiche versions. Wreck It Ralph (voiced robustly by John C Reilly) is, essentially, a human version of Donkey Kong. Each night he retires to a rubbish heap while the perky heroes of his game party on in a boxy digital skyscraper. Ralph attends a self-help group for gaming villains, but still feels unwanted and under-appreciated. Voyaging forth, Ralph finds himself caught up with a day-glo tomboy in a flashy racing game called Sugar Rush.

Wreck It Ralph doesn’t quite live up to the potential of its premise. The graphics are delicious. The contrast between different gaming styles — Ralph tarries briefly in a rough shoot-’em up — are nicely highlighted. The script has its fair share of decent one-liners.

When Ralph reaches Sugar Rush, however, the energy dissipates. The in-jokes decrease. The cultural references lose some of their bite. In short, it ceases to matter that the imagined universe is that of a videogame.

Still, Wreck It Ralph deserves its commercial success in the US.

The prospect of inevitable sequels is more than bearable.

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