As a Cineworld Unlimited card-holder, I managed to catch an advanced showing of Disney’s latest feature “Wreck-it Ralph”, something that had generated a bit of buzz in the geeky gaming circles I sometimes twirl around in. It was pretty packed-out, but fortunately the unfavourable front-right seats didn’t seem to affect the 3D at all.
The film tells the story of retro arcade villain Donkey Ko… no, sorry RALPH. Every day he throws debris off the top of high-rise flat, smashing windows etc. His nemesis, the heroic Fix-it Felix, fixes the damage and defeats Ralph. Ralph gets depressed after 30 years of this, particularly as the residents of the high-rise seem to be massive douchebags.
So he breaks the rules and travels other games to do something heroic to impress the douchebags back home. When the arcade is closed, the characters can wander between games, leading to many crossover cameos – particularly at Ralph’s counselling session that opens the movie. Usual Disney rules apply: clearly indicated hero & quest, obstacles to said quest, supporting characters with their own issues to resolve, clearly indicated villain etc.
Firstly I’d like to say that I enjoyed the film, and would certainly have no problem recommending it to someone who would unselfconsciously watch a Disney movie. I guess I just felt a little mis-sold by the end. Far from being like “Who framed Roger Rabbit?”, the cameos dried up after the first quarter, leaving parodies of popular genres to fill the void. The first-person shooter “Hero’s Quest”, the cutesy kart-racer “Sugar Rush”.
In fact the rest of the movie seemed more concerned with shoehorning in references to American snackfoods than much to do about gaming. I think the trailer perhaps led me on a bit there.
It may be true that there are no original stories these days. That’s certainly applicable here! “Toy Story” contributed with its non-licensed but obviously mimicking characters outside ‘playtime’, as well as its abundance of product-placement (retro or otherwise). “Shrek” arrives with its stereotypical bad guy coming good, redemption of outcasts who end up appreciating their unique features instead of being ashamed of them. The gaps were filled by vaguely computery jargon, in itself a little nostalgic, as that’s what films about 20 years ago used to be like.
It looked amazing though, CGI is still coming on leaps and bounds, it seems. The styling of Ralph’s neighbours as jerky 8-bit weebles was well executed, and the sickly-sweet residents of candy land were super-cute.
The voice actors did a decent job, though Sarah Silverman’s “Vanellope” was incredibly annoying – I think that was the point, but STILL. John C Reilly made for a nondescript Ralph, while Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock and Sue Sylvester from Glee stole the show in their scenes together, having long forgotten how to play any other characters. Looking at IMDB, apparently Skrillex has a non-speaking cameo. How do you have that in an animated film? Did he have to do anything?!
Anyway, it was perfectly enjoyable. I was just a little disappointed that it was on a pretty generic level of enjoyment, rather than truly resonating with my long relationship with computer games as I thought it might.