Let’s face it; when it comes to a new CG movie, who doesn’t want to be front and center? There’s a childish glee that takes over when we reminisce about Toy Story or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Wreck-It Ralph is no different. From the opening shot and the establishing of our eponymous hero, it’s hard to contain that glee. The attention to detail is infinite and enough computer game reference your arm will be sore from nudging the person next to you. From Ryu exiting the watering hole while Ralph chats with the bartender, to cheats being entered on a NES pad, it’s all enough to make you trade in your Xbox and get on ebay to purchase the consoles of yore!
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the set up: Wreck-It-Ralph, tired of his station as a “bad guy,” goes off to get his medal and prove he can be a “hero”. Ralph sets off on his odyssey faster than you can say “LOADING…” and there’s more fun to be had here than you can shake a a retro-game pack at. It has everything from shoot-em-ups to Mario Kart-style racing. All the characters are sublimely written and the nuances of the game types prove for some inter-genre japes. Who hasn’t wondered what problems Master Chief would have trying to explain himself to Luigi?! Well if you haven’t you’ll find out…kinda. This is in no small part to the performances; Venellope, a particular suprise, wins you over with childish vocabulary alone (voiced by Sarah Silverman) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch) nearly steals the show with the kind of zeal we haven’t seen since Buzz landed on Andy’s bed all those years ago.
The undeniable love of all things pixelated keeps the movie completely charming and racking up the high-scores. Even the inhabitants of Ralph’s tower block move at 8 fps, even once they’ve been rendered in modeled in 3D. There will be no denying the the hoot you’ll have watching this film, but there will be that niggling feeling - like that level’s missing collectable - that something’s missing. Whether this be down to break-neck establishment of story points, the convenient resolutions that present themselves to problems or the not-so subtle life lesson. The glitch in this particular game is that you don’t quite care as much as you should. There are triumphs and heartbreaks, but you’re involvement with Ralph never gets to the point where you really root for him at every turn. There’s a few tricks that jerk at the heart strings, but he never quite wins you over. Even Woody managed that and he used an old friend to push Buzz out of a window.
It’s more than likely the case that some of us are going to be a little harsh on Ralph. The bar is raised so high by Pixar that it’s hard not to want that emotional fix, so effortlessly given by the likes of Up, but expect it we do. It’s a hard binary to decode when everything seems so new, but the zeroes and ones look all too familiar..
3* – Groundhog Play