Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck-It Ralph is the movie gamers have been waiting for: a triumph not only in animation, but also for the video game film. In its video game world setting, the scope of imagination is limitless and director Rich Moore seizes the opportunity to create the film that gamers truly deserve.
The movie feeds our nostalgia cravings with an abundance of gaming references for players of all ages – from the more obvious inclusions of character cameos in the likes of Street Fighter’s Zangief and Q*bert to the subtle, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail like graffiti reading “Aerith Lives” on the walls of Game Central Station. In utilizing classic game sound effects like the Metal Gear Solid alert signal and acquiring video game voice actors such as Roger Craig Smith in his reprisal of his role as Sonic the Hedgehog, the details in Wreck-It Ralph bring authenticity to its world. It’s a true love letter to gamers. Often the references are hilarious – particularly in one ironic throwback to the days of Sonic’s safety messages (from his Sonic Says shorts at the end of The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episodes) – and will take you back to the happiest memories of your childhood.
However, the references merely set the scene. Let it not be said that Wreck-It Ralph is yet another animation that relies solely on pop-culture references – at its heart is a simple yet charming story with fantastic script containing many one-liners (one of Calhoun’s subordinates tells Ralph that “she was programmed with the most tragic back-story ever.”) that stands perfectly well on its own.
John Lasseter’s presence as executive producer is certainly felt here, as he and animation powerhouse Disney bring the bright, vivid world of Wreck-It Ralph to life with careful attention and thorough research. The characters of Ralph’s game, Fix-It Felix, Jr., move rigidly as their colourful 8-bit sprites would permit them in their world, contrasting with the aesthetics of Hero’s Duty (stemming from the likes of Gears of War, Metroid and Call of Duty), the modern first-person shooter of the arcade that favours blue and grey hues like many real games of its kind. From the gorgeous colour grading to the inspired smaller details, every pixel on-screen has been lovingly created.
The performances are brilliant across the board, with John C. Reilly’s frustrated retro Donkey Kong-style villain Ralph and Sarah Silverman’s adorable kart racer glitch Vanellope von Schweetz creating great chemistry as the unlikely friends. But a particular highlight in performances is found in the companionship between goodie-two-shoes Fix-It Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer) and military drilled Sergeant Tamora Calhoun (Jane Lynch) whose personalities clash humorously, yet pair together well.
The soundtrack is full of fresh, vibrant pop that often works well in the vivid environments – highlights being Skrillex’s Bug Hunt that fits the world of the first-person shooter and AKB48’s J-pop Sugar Rush that attunes with the kawaii-style kart racer. One or two tunes feel offbeat – such as Rihanna’s Shut Up and Drive, which feels somewhat jarring in Vanellope’s driving sequence – but these are minor faults in what is one of the most entertaining cartoons of recent years.
Upon an initial glance, many will find reason to be sceptical in a genre regularly filled to the brim with empty plots and awful pop-culture jokes, but upon viewing audiences will be blown away by the incredible visuals, brilliance of the concept and fantastic writing that ensures that the rollicking adventure Wreck-It Ralph is the quintessential video game movie. Its sincerity in touching our emotions with nostalgia is something the likes of Paul W.S. Anderson and Uwe Boll never understood. Wreck-It Ralph honours the clichéd adage of being a film for all ages, truly belonging in the hearts of gamers the world over.
Don’t arrive at the cinema late and miss the gorgeous Oscar-nominated opening short Paperman – you’ll truly regret it.