I'm a part time actor and part time writer living in Perth. I love being on stage. I love going out with friends, doesn't matter what we do
Published March 18th 2013
A retro gaming movie for the kids
Disney's Wreck-It Ralph starts with a great, giddy idea. The title character features in a coin-operated 1982 arcade game called 'Fix-It Felix, Jr' – a made-up one, which the animators have conceived in all its primitive, pixelly glory (and even stuck online for you to play). As his name might suggest, Ralph, voiced by John C Reilly, is the game's nemesis, a wantonly destructive red-haired meat head in overalls, with a touch of Desperate Dan. His job is to trash everything, but in "real" life – that's to say in his off-hours, when no one's playing – he's a gentle giant who just wants to be understood.
Tired of being treated as a pariah by all the game's other smug little characters, including Felix (Jack McBrayer), a chirpy goody-two-shoes who tries ever so hard to be nice, Ralph abandons his own machine to find respect elsewhere. 'Hero's Duty', a violent shooter with space marines swamped by aliens, is his first port of call, but he keeps failing, because he's basically just a clumsy oaf.
You can see the potential here for a strikingly ingenious, tragicomic adventure – if it's a variation on Toy Story inside a host of video games, there's nothing wrong with that. Imagining where Charlie (Adaptation) Kaufman might have despatched Ralph, with the whole dusty graveyard of gaming history at his disposal, is especially tantalising. How sad, then, that this script's such a let-down. Half the movie is spent inside a cutesy candy-land racing game called Sugar Rush, which is fun and eye-popping for about ten minutes, but the cast and pedantic rules of this confectionery-strewn world will make you crave an escape sooner or later.
Ralph befriends an intentionally irritating sidekick called Vanellope von Schweetz, ostracised in her domain as a programming glitch, but the character is an instant dud, even with abrasive comic Sarah Silverman doing the vocals. The message, too, comes up short – we keep hearing that being a Bad Guy doesn't make you a bad guy, or words to that effect. Wreck-It Ralph isn't Pixar, but it's trying awfully hard to be – the Ralph/Vanellope bond is a smarmier riff on Sulley and Boo from Monsters, Inc, and the idea of a support group for coin-op baddies is boomingly trite – Pixar did it for discarded meal toys in a short. The pull of the premise keeps you hopeful, and flashes of inspiration do remain, yoked to Henry Jackman's fondly retro synth score.