Some films are best described as “clever.” I don’t necessarily mean clever in a “Memento/Inception – How did they put that together?” sort of way but in a more “why didn’t I think of that?” The kind of clever that saw toys come to life when you don’t watch them in Toy Story and monsters scare children for power in Monster’s Inc. Wreck-It Ralph is that kind of clever.
It’s so simple that its obvious. When you aren’t playing the video game, the characters can leave their “world” and join others. The characters from Street Fighter can interact with the characters from Sonic and live lives beyond their roles in their games. This idea alone has loads of scope for different story telling and the idea of a game character wanting to “game-jump” to another to escape his character as the villain, is a fantastic one.
Not that the idea of “be yourself” hasn’t been done thousands of times before, in animated and non-animated movies, but if the message is sound and clear, then all you need to do is find an original package to deliver in it. Wreck-It Ralph has that and for the first half an hour at least, it’s a gamers dream. The amount of cameo’s, clever nods and ingenious ideas used to mould together the game world’s and the real world’s are incredible. From “Bad Guy’s anonymous” (a treasure trove of amazing cameos and characters) to a “customs inspector” who checks what you are bringing in and out of other games. The film is full of small surprises and big ideas that bring the idea of a world beyond the game you play, to life.
It also helps that the characters that have been created by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston fit right in with the classic characters we recognise. Ralph is a classic, arcade villain with a heart of gold, Calhoun is an amazing, female general leading troops in a clear Call of Duty/Gears of War rip-off and Vanellope is just about on the right side of cute to not be too annoying. In that case, it’s actually more down to the actor chosen to voice her rather than the character herself.
Sarah Silverman just about manages to steal the movie, even one starring Sonic, with her cute voice but mature expressions. The movie becomes hers when Ralph enters her video game and this is one of the flaws of the movie. As great a character as Vanellope is and as good a job as they do of developing her and Ralph’s friendship, sticking in the sweet-based Sugar-Rush racing game, this begins to stall the movie slightly. The film is at its best when Ralph is jumping from game to game and we only really see him do that properly once. I think there was more funny, clever, video game related fun to be had when Ralph is constantly discovering new worlds.
Although it does begin to stall towards the middle of the movie, it does always keep you interested and still has game related surprises in-store throughout. It was also a genuinely pleasant experience to be surprised by the movie’s key plot points, the villain’s reveal and also the climax of the movie itself. These are set-up very well but not telegraphed like they may have been in lesser “kids” films. It made the movie much more enjoyable and helped it back on track when it began to falter in the middle.
Overall, Wreck-It Ralph is a fantastic, clever movie that takes the usual, “be yourself” message and wraps it up in a very unique package. If you are a movie fan, it’s a good story and a great looking animated movie. If you’re a video games fan, especially classic retro titles, there is loads of stuff to love here. It brings a whole new element to the movie which changes it from good to great.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)