That’s not the only thing it’ll do – you’ll also laugh, cheer and, if you’re of a certain age, reminisce like crazy – but the most improbable response a film about an errant video game bad guy will inspire is waterworks.
Animated movies have a good track record for inspiring audiences to well up but generally it’s… well… obvious when the tear-jerking will begin.
The first 15 minutes of Up is a fine example. Some masterful editing and animation makes mincemeat of even the hardest-hearted audiences. She dies for heaven’s sake!
Bambi, The Lion Before Time and The Lion King are the same, it’s (literally) beautifully drawn tragedy. You’d be a monster not to feel for Bambi, Little Foot or Simba, sure didn’t their Ma/Pa just die?
Wreck It Ralph is different stuff altogether. To start with, it’s a comedy. Not drama-with-comedy-bits, but a fully fledged let’s-go-for-the-gags-and-hang-the-consequences comedy.
Ralph (John C Reilly) is a bad guy. Not a “bad” bad guy, as the members of his Bad Guy Support Group affirm, but still the agent destructeur in the computer game Fix It Felix Jnr.
As Donkey Kong to Felix’s Mario, Ralph spends his days wrecking buildings as kids who flock to the arcade his game is housed in guide Felix in repairing the damage and throwing Ralph off his building into mud. When the lights go off and the kids go home, however, poor Ralph gets to go to the dump and sleep on whatever rubble he can pound into a bed shape with nothing to do but wait till the next day’s grind.
That’s how it is for all the games at Litwik’s Arcade. The bad guys – including StreetFighter’s M Bison, the ghosts from Pac-Man and Bowser from Super Mario – get their asses kicked, the good guys get the glory and medals and everything resets the next day.
Until Ralph – driven by 30 years of frustration – decides he’s going to win a medal and the approval of his fellows.
His adventure takes him from the grimy, alien-infested vistas of Hero’s Duty (which looks like every single first-person shooter beloved of armchair soldiers and spotty teens) to the candy-coated weirdness of racing game, Sugar Rush, where he loses his medal to precocious pint-sized annoyance Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) and gets caught up in the game world’s madness as he tries to get it back.
The jokes come thick and fast, both through the script and the antics of the characters. The are jokes for kids and adults alike and a special, extra level for video game fans old and new.
The sight of Ralph smuggling a giant cherry out of Pac-Man’s world and then giving it to a now unemployed QBert is a thing of genius (or baffling oddness, depending on your age).
A lot must be made of the voice acting here. Silverman, in particular, is brilliant as the annoying, cute, ratbag Vanellope. It’s quite a departure from her stand-up persona but her spiky-sweet demeanour is perfect for the role.
Also brilliant is Jack McBrayor (Kenneth in 30 Rock) as Felix. Like Silverman, his most commonly recognised persona lends itself well to the role, as his brand of gormless innocence with a hint of brains makes Felix far more interesting than a cookie-cutter good guy.
While Reilly and Jane Lynch as Calhoun, the gruff commander from Hero’s Duty, also do fine jobs, it’s not so hard to imagine another performer doing the role. Alan Tudyk is also entertaining, channelling Ed Wynn as the wacked-out King Candy.
Throughout everything, however, the story remains Wreck It Ralph’s strongest feature. Far from predictable, it keeps you guessing and allows space for the characters to do more than just crack jokes or forward the plot. By the time the pixels hit the fan in the grand finale, you’ll actually care about Ralph and his cohorts.
And as for the last scene? Well I for one was well past the old “something in my eye” excuse. Wreck It Ralph is a fantastic surprise wrapped up in an hilarious idea. Any potential sequel has a lot to live up to.