Director: Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
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“You are bad guy, but this does not mean you are bad guy!” That’s Zangief, of Street Fighter fame, counselling Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), the villain of 1980s arcade game Fix-It Felix. A Capcom legend dishing out philosophy? It sounds like an idea programmed for success, but sadly, Disney’s animation isn’t as brilliant as a hairy Russian giving life advice in tight red spandex would suggest.
Why? Because while it may be set in a beautifully realised arcade world, Wreck-It Ralph has less to do with video games than your Great Aunt Mildred.
Ralph doesn’t like being the bad guy. Even when the arcade closes at night, Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his pixellated pals cast him out of the village to sleep on his pile of bricks in the field nearby. And so he starts game hopping to find a world where he can be a good guy after all.
Gamers have welcomed Wreck-It Ralph as the best video game movie ever. It’s admittedly the most stunning: Futurama and The Simpsons director Rich Moore does a fantastic job with the visuals, nailing everything from the traditional character animations to the old-school audio effects.
It seems like a nerd’s dream, but this spectacular universe is only created to set up the movie’s irrelevant second half, which takes place in a Mario Kart clone called Sugar Rush – a place ruled by King Candy (Alan Tudyk) and covered in branded sweets and bright colours. That’s when it turns out this is not a film for geeks; it’s a film that uses geek references as window dressing for product placement.
Any cameos for video game fans are swiftly left behind in favour of Sugar Rush and bug-hunting FPS Hero’s Duty (another fictional game), introduced just to provide a villain for the final act.
The script tries to inject some heart by adding Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a glitch in the racing game who, like Ralph, wants to be accepted. But while the feisty Silverman and likeable Reilly share some good banter, the generic ‘accept who you are’ message ends up feeling closer to the cynical motto of ‘make do with what you’ve got’.
Compare it to Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which is about gaming; not unlike Toy Story, Edgar Wright’s movie explored the relationship between humans and games, why people play them and how they use them to relate to the world. Wreck-It Ralph, on the other hand, has none of that emotional engagement. It’s closer to watching someone else play a video game, except instead of a game, it’s an advert for Mentos and Diet Coke.