Wreck-It Ralph

In 2013 Film Reviews, Films by David Watson

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. McGinley) is the 9-foot, massive-fisted bad guy in Donkey Kong-style video game Fix-It Felix Jr.

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. McGinley) is the 9-foot,
massive-fisted bad guy in
Donkey Kong-style
video game
Fix-It Felix Jr., his
attempts to destroy a posh apartment building continually thwarted by the Mario-esque Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer). But 30 years of playing the bad guy
have taken their toll on Ralph; his self-esteem is at rock bottom and he’s
tired of seeing Felix get all the glory.

Determined to become a hero, Ralph abandons his game and
goes arcade-hopping, jumping from game to game in an attempt to win himself a
medal and some respect, his odyssey taking him from the alien battlefield of
violent first-person shooter Hero’s Duty
to the candy-coated world of racing cart game Sugar Rush where he meets the feisty (and annoying) outcast Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who press-gangs him
into helping her prepare for the big race.

But by leaving his game, Ralph unwittingly unleashes Hero’s Duty’s enemies, the destructive
Cy-Bugs, threatening the safety of the whole arcade. Pursued by Felix and Hero’s
’s hard-as-nails drill sergeant Calhoun
(Jane Lynch), can Ralph save the day
and become a true hero? Is there
any doubt?

As much as Wreck-It Ralph is a video game character going
through an existential identity crisis – he’s a bad guy who wants to be a good
guy – the same could be said of Wreck-It
as a film; it’s a Disney film
that desperately wants to be a Pixar. So it borrows from Toy Story and Monsters Inc.,
creating a Tron-style world for
six-year-olds where McGinley’s soft-hearted big lug attends an AA-style support
group for baddies filled with other villains from games like Street Fighter and House of the Dead and led by one of the ghosts from Pac-Man. And the first 20 minutes or so of the film where the hangdog
Ralph mooches around this world are kinda fun (though you’ve seen the best
jokes in the trailer), the film tapping into the video game nostalgia of the adult
members of the audience and exposing the ordinary, hum-drum lives of video game
character’s reminiscent of the secret toy lives of Toy Story. There’s
nothing truly groundbreaking about it but this section of the film has a
sweetness and melancholy about it, the promise that this film might actually
take you somewhere interesting, somewhere surprising, that it’ll make you
laugh, that it’ll make you cry.
Like Wall-E. Or Up. You know? Like a Pixar

But then the House of Mouse’s traditional “You can do it
champ! Anyone can be a winner!”
ethos kicks in and Ralph’s off on a by-the-numbers quest of self-actualisation,
determined to become a hero and teaming up with Sarah Silverman’s obligatory,
lisping, wise-cracking kid. Mostly
‘cause, you know, Up had that really
touching relationship between grouchy Carl and affection-starved Russell and everybody loved that!

As the film becomes increasingly visually frenetic, the
story becomes progressively less interesting and less funny as we’re stuck in
the explosion in Charlie’s Chocolate
that is Sugar Rush with
Ralph forced to save Vanellope and her world from an army of robotic insects
and Alan Tudyk’s villainous King Candy. From it’s gang of mean girls who bully Vanellope to Ralph’s
heroic self-sacrifice everything about Wreck-It
feels predictable and a little bit, well, one dimensional. Despite the charm of it’s opening,
you’ve seen this film before, you’ve been watching it since you were a child.

Sure, there’s a lot here to enjoy (particularly the
first-person shooter character suffering from post-traumatic stress) but it’s
mostly background detail; at its heart Wreck-It Ralph is a hollow
experience. Regardless of the
sterling voicework from McGinley, Silverman and 30 Rock’s McBrayer (Jane Lynch just gives us the same one-note
performance she’s been giving throughout her career), the characters all feel
flat, we don’t invest in them as people; we just don’t care if Ralph wins his
medal or becomes a better person.
We never feel the characters are in danger, they never truly come to
life. They may be brightly
coloured and noisy but they don’t hold your attention. You just don’t care.

Wreck-It Ralph
may have given the Mouse House their biggest opening weekend in decades but,
like most video games, it’s probably more fun to play than to watch.