Featuring a veritable smorgasbord of video game character cameos past and present, the ‘Toy Story’ of gaming, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, is a fantastic return to form for the once dominant animation ranch of Disney Studios.
The premise is this: when kids leave the games arcade, the characters come alive, and we mainly focus on one of these characters, the titular Wreck-It Ralph, voiced excellently by comedian John C. Reilly. He’s a bad guy in an game called ‘Fix it Felix!’, and one day decides he’s had enough of the day-to-day struggles of a villain, and strives to change his life by achieving the coveted ‘hero’s medal. To do this, though, he has to leave his game and travel to other arcade games, cleverly through the electricity cables. The ensuing journey is a lot of fun, with an unexpected dose of emotion that isn’t usually seen in these sorts of kid’s films.
We see a host of bad guys in the ‘Bad Guys Anonymous’, the likes of Mario’s mortal enemy Bowser, a generic zombie and a PacMan ghost alongside Ralph. Then in Game Central Station, where all of the cables link up, visualized brilliantly as an extension lead in the arcade, cameos flick in and out, Sonic is there, PacMan himself turns up at a party, a fair few ‘Street Fighter’, characters and, memorably, Q*Bert.
This is as well as a tonne of visual references to series’ like Mario, ‘Metal Gear’, ‘Paper Boy’, ‘Lara Croft’ and even ‘Dance Dance Revolution’. Non gaming related, but relevant nonetheless, world famous DJ Skrillex appears fleetingly too, almost as if the filmmakers are returning the favour for him featuring on the great soundtrack, with his music in one scene in particular leading to a fantastic sequence.
Only a couple of other games are explored in great detail; ‘Hero’s Duty’, a sneaky parody of first-person shooters like ‘Call of Duty’, and ‘Halo’, and the rainbow-filled world of ‘Sugar Rush’, a vibrant, colourful kart racer, where our anti-heromeets a glitched character Vanellope von Schweetz. The fact only a couple of worlds are visited, excusing the brief foray into a classic, means there is massive potential for sequels in the franchise, expanding it for years to come. The ridiculously named Vanellope, is voiced by Sarah Silverman, and may be frustratingly annoying at first, but grows as a character, a person everyone loves to hate, and just one of a diverse range of characters. True hero, Fix-It Felix Jr, voiced by Jack McBrayer, is understated but effective, as a hopeless ‘fixing man’, whereas Glee star Jane Lynch is a hard-nosed army brute from ‘Hero’s Duty’, the leader of her pack. King Candy, voiced by Alan Tudyk, is a wonderfully camp man, and gets a few killer lines of dialogue as a crazy, power-obsessed ruler of ‘Sugar Rush’.
Little nuances, like ushering glitches into the plot are another sign the film-makers knew exactly what they were doing with such strong material. The story twists and turns towards the climax of the film are brilliant too, you don’t see them coming, and whilst the ‘showdown’, may be slightly anti-climatic, you don’t feel cheated at all.
And memorable it is, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, is one of the strongest animations I’ve seen for a few years, maybe not reaching the ultimate heights of a ‘Toy Story’, but certainly not being far away. Is it this generation of kids’ ‘Toy Story’? Maybe, just maybe…