‘Wreck-It Ralph’ (2012) sets a new high score.

17 Feb

Wreck-It Ralph PosterFilms that harbour the theme of video games rarely work. Direct adaptations are almost never successful mainly because what acts as an enjoyable experience as a game will not necessarily work as a movie. The reverse applies; video game adaptations of movies, which were, for a long time, extremely common, tend to fail for the exact same reason. From the horrendous Super Mario Bros. movie of 1993 to the frightening array of Uwe Boll films, game-themed cinema has a rather bad name. Can Wreck-It Ralph help to change this?

Loosely set in a 1982 video games arcade, Disney’s latest animation Wreck-It Ralph follows its title character in his quest to free himself from the label of ‘bad guy’. Stuck wreaking havoc in a game whose title does not bear his name, Ralph (John C. Reilly) endeavours to achieve the status of ‘hero’, one way or another. Throughout his journey he encounters nefarious subplots, genuinely hilarious puns and a wonderful assortment of video game references, and the drama quickly escalates into something far beyond his original goal.

The film has been out in the USA since November, though is only a week old here in Ireland. I was very excited for this; video games and film are two of my favourite ways to waste time, so of course an effective amalgamation of the two should be perfect for me. Not to mince words, Wreck-It Ralph is the best video game-themed film of all time. It quite shrewdly blends the classic with the contemporary, the archaic with the advanced and the blurry with the beautiful. From the very old-school blockiness of Pac-Man and Fix-It Felix to the colourfully bouncy Sugar Rush to the high-res Hero’s Duty, an array of art styles clash and contrast with wondrous aplomb.

Everyone is going to love this movie; at the screening I went to, it was me, my friend, two others our age and the rest was parents with young kids, and everyone seemed to have a blast. John C. Reilly voices Ralph very adequately with no sense of grandeur or pastiche, which may sound like a criticism but really isn’t; his character is 2D, after all. 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer’s gentle Southern tones add a homely quality to the beleaguered Felix, and although Sarah Silverman does a great job with her part, as a fan of her comedy I spent the movie expecting an ironic anti-Semitic joke to raise its controversial head, though thankfully it never did.

As regards to the video game references, they get them out of the way early and in such a fashion as to not beat you over the head with them. The nods to Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog et al are worked into the narrative, and aren’t there merely to sell tickets. Gamers who grew up in the late eighties and nineties (such as myself) will appreciate (or, if you’re my friend, literally squeal with joy at) the appearances of Bowser, Pac-Man, Ryu and Q*Bert, though their appeal soared over the heads of the legions of mothers, fathers and children who will see this; it won’t matter, they are cute if inconsequential.

An innovative, original film emblazoned with the sheer ingenuity that adorned Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 25 years ago, Wreck-It Ralph is a fantastic movie. Kids and adults alike should love it, and the many video game references serve as the cherry on top of an amazing 8-bit cake.

Simon says: the one game you won’t mind watching.

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2 Responses to “‘Wreck-It Ralph’ (2012) sets a new high score.”

  1. CMrok93 February 18, 2013 at 4:01 am #

    Though it falls for the conventions we hate to see in these types of movies, it still has plenty of heart and fun that it definitely makes the final-product all the more better. Good review Simon.

    • Simon Mernagh February 19, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

      It follows the traditional family-friendly story and character arcs, but still feels fresh! Cheers dude 😀

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