The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
Wreck-It Ralph

Reviewed by Ivan Girina.

Director Rich Moore
Length 108 mins
Certificate PG
Rating *******---
Filmmaking: 4  Personal enjoyment: 3

Photo from the article Trailer

For a passionate gamer from the ‘80s, there is nothing like the feeling of being in a video arcade, surrounded by dusty cabinets that once entertained hundreds of people every day. The cabinet of a coin-op machine is the place where the story of Wreck-It Ralph begins - and it couldn’t begin better - evoking a feeling of romanticism that clearly drives the entire project.

The story hinges on a slumdog tale taking place inside an arcade game, Fix-It Felix, Jr., in which a big bad guy, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), mechanically rips apart an apartment block, and the small good guy, Felix (Jack McBrayer), repeatedly ‘fixes’ up the wreckage, jumping around in a humorously antiquated fashion. Like a retooled version of Toy Story (1995), when the gamers leave the arcade these characters take on a life of their own. With the game celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, Felix is treated as a lasting hero by his fellow residents, waiting for Nintendo superstar Mario to show up to his party. Ralph, who lives in the dump abutting the building, is fed up with his villainous role and the loneliness that comes with it. So Ralph ‘goes turbo’, leaving Fix-It Felix, Jr. behind via the vast tunnelling networks supplied by the arcade’s extension cables, ‘game-jumping’ to other environs in the hope of proving to people that he might not be that bad a guy after all. This, however, leaves his own game in a dangerous situation: without a villain, it will be reported broken, and shut down by the arcade’s owner. Felix takes it upon himself to bring back Ralph, occasioning a journey through the history of video games: from the nostalgic glitches that allowed for the player’s subversive gaming, to the avatar selection, secret levels, turbo-characters and many more elements that characterise the form.

Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of Wreck-It Ralph is the audacity to detach itself from cinema’s antagonistic positions towards video games. The film, both narratively and iconographically, is not afraid of depicting the extremely creative and vivid imagination in much video game production over the last thirty years. Such admiration and nostalgia prove engrossing, finally bringing Disney Animation up to speed with it its competitors. Tonally, Wreck-It Ralph finds a niche half-way between the visionary childhood memories of Pixar’s Toy Story and the bitingly sarcastic disillusions of Dreamworks’ Shrek (2001).

If there is any downside to the film’s approach, it is the lack of further experimentation with its visual style. Its play with the visual representation of videogames - both old and new - is one of its most interesting elements (watch out for the credits!) but it is, unfortunately, confined to marginal moments. A special mention goes to the sound track, maintaining a nostalgic atmosphere throughout with effects that deliver a symphonic version of their 8-bit counterparts. None-too-subtle references to more contemporary titles (Call of Duty, Halo, Doom and Metal Gear Solid, among others) sit alongside explicit cameos of established videogame characters such as Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario’s nemesis Bowser. These allow for clever scenes such as the one detailing ‘Bad-Anon’, a support group for established videogame villains to voice their inner feelings ("I am bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad," they recite). Wreck-It Ralph, a tale of self-acceptance and understanding others, qualifies as a worthy addition to Disney’s classic canon.

This review was published on February 13, 2013.

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