Anything dealing with ‘retro’ videogames is dealing with a subject very close to my heart and, to be honest, most things miss their targets either through ridicule or just lack of understanding – Wreck-It Ralph however really seems to know what it’s talking about and have a real affection for the genre.
So, for the first act of the movie, we are almost drowned in references and cameos relating to older arcade and video games, as the scene of life after hours in a videogames arcade is set – as a fan of these games I have to admit to reveling in this as Bowser, Robotnik and M. Bison turned up at the bad guy’s equivalent of an AA meeting while Ryu and Ken headed out for a root beer after a long days Street Fighting.
This leads him into the main adventure of the film where things head back into much more familiar Disney territory as Ralph meets Vanellope, a young girl who happens to be ‘glitch’ in Mario Kart alike Sugar Rush and we get a fairly well-worn, but always nice to see, message about being who you are and being proud of who that is (although it does also have a hint of the more usual Disney conformity too).
To that point, the design of this film is something that really stands out as astonishing. While Ralph and his ‘good guy’ counterpart Fix-It Felix are broadly drawn replicas of Donkey Kong and the early version of Mario, their game-mates are very cute little sprites designed just like background characters in older games and their movements are appropriately jerky for their 8-bit world.
Elsewhere we get the space marines of Hero’s Duty (which leads to a great series of jokes from the Sarah Silverman voiced Vanellope) who are Halo type characters led by a Samus Aran alike designed with the most modern look and stylings moving and talking like modern characters.
Though it’s a Disney film, Wreck-It Ralph clearly takes more than a few notes from Pixar with its more irreverent lead characters and star name voice cast, but I think this is to the film’s benefit, as John C. O’Reilly and Sarah Silverman play off each other brilliantly and really bring a humour necessary to make the points raised by the story work and reflect the very nature of videogame fandom and take the film away from being just a movie for children.
While Wreck-It Ralph may not be as challenging as some more recent animated movies, particularly Paranorman, it is a highly enjoyable film that combines the best parts of Disney and Pixar’s styles to create something that I think can genuinely appeal to a both children and adults alike in a reasonably inventive way.