Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)


I’m not usually a fan of animated films and had seen or heard almost nothing about Wreck-It Ralph, the latest cartoon offering from Disney, but was persuaded to see it by good word of mouth.

The concept is brilliant: the titular character, Ralph (John C Reilly), is the villain of a retro Donkey Kong-style arcade game who longs to be a good guy and breaks into other games in the arcade to seek validation.

I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of how Ralph does it, but it’s pretty clever and very cool. As you can imagine, throwing a poorly pixelated arcade game character from 20-30 years ago into the high definition, high-powered games of the present is a fun idea in itself, not to mention all the nostalgia of seeing some of the most iconic characters in gaming history (I won’t spoil the surprise by saying who they are).

That’s the biggest strength of Wreck-It Ralph — its ability to weave together memorable video game characters that will bring back the favourite memories of big kids like myself. And the character mish mash also happens to be what churns out some of the movie’s best jokes and one-liners. You’d have to be a massive geek to get all of the references, but there should be more than enough easy ones for everyone to enjoy.

Unfortunately, Wreck-It Ralph doesn’t quite exploit this concept enough, with the majority of the second half of the film taking place almost entirely in a single fictional game. This was a huge letdown for me because I had longed for more of the nostalgia, but instead the film kind of reversed into more familiar animated film territory as Ralph enters character development mode.

Not to say that this part of the film was bad, because it’s actually still quite good and littered with crafty humour and heart. Perhaps Disney didn’t want to milk the mish mash concept too much, but for me it took away the most appealing part of the movie and the potential for more clever laughs.

John C Reilly is always reliable and the supporting cast is excellent. There’s the sweet, nasally voice of comedian Sarah Silverman as a bratty but adorable little girl, the instantly-recognisable voice of 30 Rock‘s Jack McBrayer as the hero of Ralph’s video game, Fix-It Felix, as well as the equally recognisable voice of Glee‘s Jane Lynch as a first-person shooter squadron leader.

On the whole, Wreck-It Ralph is one of the better animated films I have seen in recent years, though it’s not quite in the same league as say Toy Story (any of them). Absolutely no shame in that though; I’d still recommend it to anyone who has ever spent a chunk of their childhood playing video games.

3.75 stars out of 5

PS: Wreck-It Ralph has been nominated for a best animated feature Oscar. I haven’t seen the other nominees but Brave recently took out the award at the Golden Globes, so we’ll see.

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