Even though computer games and movies seems like a match made in heaven, the two do not often mix. Try and think of a decent film based on a computer game and you’ll struggle. Resident Evil, Hitman, Final Fantasy, Doom - the list goes on and they’re all pretty terrible. Likewise, most computer games based on films are inevitably cash-ins and end up being rushed out and largely disappointing. However, Disney (no Pixar this time) have created a film that shows the two mediums can work together in harmony.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in his videogame, Fix-it Felix, a Donkey Kong-esque arcade game in which he destroys buildings that Felix (Jack McBrayer) must fix before throwing Ralph from the top of the building. However, Ralph is tired of being the bad guy and wants in on the glory Felix receives. To do so, he leaves his game in search of a gold medal to prove he can be a good guy, invading games Hero’s Duty (Halo clone) and Sugar Rush (Mario Kart-esque racer) in the process. In Sugar Rush, he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a little girl whom the other racers have outcast because she’s a glitch, and together they try and work together to solve their problems.
Wreck-it Ralph is a Mecca for computer game fans young and old; from the outset you’re bombarded with computer game references that date back to the early days of gaming as well as those that acknowledge the newer, more modern games. One viewing is simply not enough to take in all of the references and some will only be noticed by the most hardcore and eagle-eyed gamers (there is also a sneaky reference to Disney acquiring the Star Wars franchise). It is this level of detail that helps to create a rich and vibrant environment that is somewhat reminiscent of the Toy Story universe.
Various ‘real’ computer game characters have small parts but the original creations slot into this world seamlessly. The relationship between Ralph and Venellope is a believable one and bears more than a slight similarity to Monsters Inc.’s Sully and Boo. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman provide excellent voicing to their respective characters, with Jane Lynch also contributing excellently with her role as Calhoun, Hero’s Duty’s troubled lead.
The story is typical Disney fair but that’s no bad thing; it still handles it with the style that has been lacking as of late. However, it does lose its way in the second half of the film slightly, perhaps due to spending a little too long in the overly cutesy Sugar Rush (perhaps a way of enticing the little girl audience who don’t much care for computer games). It also doesn’t throw any surprises in there or offer much new; it’s a story that feels a little too similar to past Disney (and Disney Pixar) titles just repackaged slightly. Having said that, the way Disney have gone about repackaging it is very clever and unmistakably meticulous.
Wreck-it Ralph is a fine addition to Disney’s catalogue and most definitely sits amongst its most revered titles. It might not have the uniqueness of Toy Story or the sentiment of Monsters Inc. but it has relevance. Like it or not, computer games are the new action figures and and board games, and Disney have made a film that recognises this and lovingly accepts them into its world.