Friday, 15 February 2013

'Wreck-It Ralph' review:

Jeez! This blog - and its humble author - just can't catch a break, gentle reader. Since making my hubristic turn-of-the-year pledge to update more regularly (10 times a month, said I!) I have been beset by horrid seasonal flu-like illness and (as of tomorrow) a major house move - complete with lack of internet for the immediate future. So I can't see my output improving any in the near future. So it goes. Anyway, this confluence of events also meant that I haven't yet seen award season hotties 'Zero Dark 30' and 'Lincoln'. Anyway, I did at least see Disney's latest home-grown animation, 'Wreck-It Ralph', whilst at a customarily dry 2013 slate presentation in London last month. So here's a review of that film, seeing as it's just now on general release on this side of the pond.

'Wreck-It Ralph' is to the video game arcade what 'Toy Story' was to a kid's bedroom, in that it takes place in the imagined downtime of the various game characters, after the patrons have left the arcade. Our hero is one game's villain, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly)  - whose daily routine involves smashing up a brightly coloured apartment building so that Fix-It Felix ('30 Rock's loveable Jack McBrayer) can save the day: earning glory and the love of the game's citizens. But Ralph is frustrated by his lot. Why shouldn't he be the hero? Especially as, by some cruel quirk of sociology, his in-game villain status leaves a very real impression on his neighbours in the game. Understandably, Ralph doesn't want to be the bad guy any more. He wants adulation and sometimes a bit of birthday cake. And so he quits his game to see if he can make it as a hero somewhere else.

It's this quest that takes Ralph through various colourful and amusing game worlds, some based on actual games and others excellent facsimiles, with the most of the film taking place in one of the latter: Sugar Rush, an adorable candy-theme go-karting game featuring the genuinely cute Vanellope von Schweetz, as voiced by the great Sarah Silverman. It's after meeting Vanellope, a peppy little girl with a sad story and can-do attitude, that the up-to-now selfish Ralph starts to re-evaluate his priorities and discovers what actually being a hero means. It's a familiar arc, but it plays out here with real warmth and doesn't feel forced or hackneyed.

It's sweet and tells its story smartly, but where 'Wreck-It Ralph' really sings is with the sight gags, inspired puns and myriad of game references. It's an out-and-out comedy in an age where a lot of the classier animated movies - vintage Pixar, 'ParaNorman' - are increasingly dramas-with-jokes (not a criticism) and it converts an unreasonably high number of jokes to actual laughs. (More than most live-action comedies released in the past decade - though I realise that isn't necessarily too much of a yardstick.) It's a joy from start to finish. A little slice of happy, but without being overly saccharin... well, the least it can be considering it's a Disney movie set predominantly in a candy land featuring an adorable little girl teaching a surrogate father figure how to be a better man. But it pulls it off, without being too earnest and without smirking. It's a very genuine little movie made with obvious love of video games.

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