(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on November 11, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/gaming-the-inside-story)
Voice cast: John C Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman and others
Director: Rich Moore
Rating: 3.5 stars
There’s a generation of us who grew up on Tetris, Mario and Contra. And we wondered what it must be like to live in those worlds. What did Contra do when we shut the game off to eat our meals? Did Mario and Luigi discuss who would actually land up with the Princess? What did it feel like to land on those prickly red tortoises? Did they hear those annoying beeps and buzzes we did? Wreck-It Ralph sweeps us back to that time, easing us in with an achingly nostalgic animation short.
I fell in love with Disney’s latest offering when it opened, and let myself fall, with the thrill of disbelief, into the happy 1990s gaming world it tipped me into. But as the movie progressed, I found myself searching for reasons to think it a cut above everything else. There’s a lot to like about it, and my favourite aspect is that it’s bizarrely realistic, staying true to the eras each of its characters belongs in. However, it descends into a sort of sameness, its storyline tracing the trajectory of most other, umm, animation family dramas.
The premise is familiar territory. You have Wreck-It Ralph (John C Reilly), the gentle giant whose enormous fists – useful for pounding buildings – may not evoke images of bassinettes in the dreams of every virtual girl. So, the lumbering game villain is consigned to the town junkyard, looking into bright, happy windows where Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) is welcomed by grateful Nicelanders.
I do like that hardly anyone’s bad in here. You can’t fit much evil into Hero’s Duty, Sugar Rush Speedway, Nicelanders and Vanellope, but the film does well to avoid the cliché of a nasty hero. McBrayer’s Felix is an amiable Noddy type, and it’s loneliness – not cruelty – that drives Wreck-It Ralph in search of greener pastures.
So, we scoot into Grand Game Central, where life and death assume more significance than the characters’ own video games. The movie is a visual delight, throwing us into gamescape after gamescape, each from a different stage of virtual history, populated by characters whose concerns and countenances are governed by the popular thinking of the time.
You do sort of expect the hero to find love and acceptance while traversing video games. However, once the dumb belle in distress enters the scene, everything turns somewhat predictable. The originality that swept the film to its climax fails at the denouement. But that shouldn’t stop this feature from raking in the moolah.
The Verdict: You could just compare everything with Toy Story and shrug, but Wreck-It Ralph has enough charm to inspire the mandatory “awww”.