out of Five
Running time: 101
Beautifully animated and featuring a terrific voice cast, this is an engaging adventure with likeable characters and some nice ideas, though the pacing flags in the second half and there's a nagging sense of unexplored potential.
What's it all about?
Directed by Rich Moore, Wreck-It Ralph is an animated Disney (note: Disney, not Pixar) adventure set in the world of arcade games where, like with Toy Story, the characters have lives outside of their video game screens. When giant-handed villain Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) gets tired of being the bad guy in the Donkey Kong-like Fix-It Felix game, he decides to find a new game where he can be the hero, so he signs up for a stint in shoot-em-up Hero's Duty, fighting giant alien bugs alongside squadron leader Calhoun (Jane Lynch).
However, after a mishap, Ralph ends up stranded in fluffy pink Go-Kart adventure world Sugar Rush, where he meets glitchy outcast Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and tries to help her earn her rightful place in the game, despite the opposition of King Candy (Alan Tudyk). Meanwhile, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) comes looking for Ralph and inadvertently teams up with Calhoun, helping her track a killer bug that Ralph accidentally brought into Sugar Land.
The voice cast are superb: John C. Reilly's dopey, loveable screen persona proves a perfect fit for Ralph and Sarah Silverman is utterly adorable as Vanellope (quotable line: ‘Because I'M ADORABLE!’), while there's strong support from both McBrayer and Lynch, the latter proving an inveterate scene-stealer even in animated form. In addition, the script has a lot of fun with a multitude of familiar video game characters such as Q-bert, Pac-Man and Mario (the character rights acquisition on the film alone must have taken years).
The first half of the film is packed with inventive gags, both verbal and visual, such as the 8-bit arcade game characters still moving in a jerky style, even outside of the game or a self-help group for videogame villains (although after Toy Story 3, this set-up is in danger of becoming a Disney/Pixar cliché).
The main problem with the film is that once Ralph lands in Sugar Rush, the pacing gets rather bogged down, while the film also seems relatively short on invention in the second half. Part of this is that, having set up the possibility of entering any video game in the arcade, to have Ralph only experience Hero's Duty (also under-used) and Sugar Rush seems like a waste of the film's potential.
Wreck-It Ralph doesn't quite deliver the emotional punch associated with the Pixar films (you won't cry, for example), but this is still an enjoyable watch, thanks to superb voice work, likeable characters and some nice ideas.