Wreck-It Ralph is a 2012 Disney film, directed by Rich
Moore. The story was written by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon,
and the screenplay by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee. John C. Reilly is
the voice of Ralph, Sarah Silverman is Vanellope and Jack McBrayer is Fix-It
Felix Junior. Other notable performances come from Jane Lynch as Calhoun, Alan
Tudyk as King Candy and Rich Moore as Sour Bill and Zangief.
On paper, Wreck-It Ralph is a superb idea for a film. A video
game’s bad guy decides that he’s sick of being the villain and would like cake
and a medal for a change, rather than being thrown off the top of the
building he was trying to wreck. As there’s no medal available in his own game,
he visits another game in the arcade (by travelling down the power cables)
called ‘Hero’s Duty’ (cue lots of ‘duty’ jokes). Here, he does, indeed, find
a medal. He also manages, accidentally, to pick up a ‘cybug’ (a nasty generic
alien) and – whilst piloting an appropriated spaceship – crashes back through
the power cables and into a third game, ‘Sugar Rush’, a rather cheesy racing
game themed on candy (sweets, if you’re in the UK). The cybug escapes (and
makes lots of little cybugs ready for the film’s climax), and Ralph loses his
medal to Vanellope, a racer who – apparently – doesn’t really belong in the
game at all, a glitch, who just wants to race. Ralph’s game can’t function
properly without Ralph and so Fix-It Felix has to set out into ‘Hero’s Duty’ and
‘Sugar Rush’ in order to find him, picking up Calhoun – the cynical,
hard-bitten commander from the shoot ’em up – as he does so. I won’t go any
further for fear of spoiling the film… If you really don’t want to know
anything more, then don’t read any further: it’s a perfectly enjoyable film. Go
see it. You’ll like it.
And it is, too. It’s perfectly enjoyable. There’s a great
deal to be vastly entertained by. John C. Reilly does an excellent job of
making the film’s hero sort of lovable whilst at the same time clumsy and
inadequate. Jack McBrayer does an admirable job of realising a 1950’s handy-man
stereotype without making him too twee. The film is utterly stolen, though,
by the sublime Sarah Silverman who makes Vanellope endearing, funny and quirky.
She is a pleasure to listen to and watch, and her interaction with Ralph is
great. King Candy is as annoying as hell, and really does feel as if he doesn’t
fit in the game – which I guess is kind of the point. That doesn’t mean to say
I’ve got to like him, though. I cringe whenever he speaks.
The animation is pretty much what you’d expect from a Disney
film. It’s clear, crisp and cute without being too fuzzy and saccharine. The
game worlds are all appropriate to their style of game, with the older games
being less smooth and a little more old-fashioned: Fix-It Felix is a sort of Donkey
Kong affair, really, with jerky movements and pixelated characters. There are
loads of references to other games, too, and styles of animation: in fact, this
is certainly one of the film’s strengths. Pac Man, Super Mario, Sonic, Q*Bert
and so on, all have cameo roles.
The plot, though, doesn’t carry the film, which is a real
shame, especially as it’s usually one of Disney’s strengths. The holes in this
one are just too big. For a start, the premise that computer game characters
can travel down power lines and into other games is clearly just a means to an
end, but it throws up more problems than it solves. Characters can leave their
games and visit other ones, but glitches can’t. It’s a really important part of
the story, but there’s no explanation. It just has to be the case because
otherwise Vanellope can escape, and there’s no film. Characters who die in
games other than their own don’t regenerate. Why not? Because the film
wouldn’t work otherwise. It is, of course, absolutely fine that Disney wanted
the rules that way, but – because the whole premise is so arbitrary – it just
makes the film seem a little too constructed. It’s as if the film was such a
good idea on paper, the fact that it really didn’t work particularly well as a
story didn’t matter very much.
Mind you, it seems a little petty to be arguing about such
things. It’s just a film. If it’s enjoyable, then does it matter? No. Of course
it doesn’t. But other things do…
Wreck-It Ralph’s real problem lies in its morality. Ralph
is a bad guy. He does bad things: he wrecks an entire building whose residents
haven’t really done anything wrong. He doesn’t want to be a bad guy any more.
He wants to be praised and to have friends, and he sets out to do just that. At
the end of the film, though, he has learned the truth behind the ‘Bad Guy’s
Affirmation’, it’s good to be bad. And just because you’re a bad-guy, you don’t
have to be a bad guy. In other words, then, you can’t change your role in life,
but that doesn’t matter. So long as you fulfil your function, people will like
you. Maybe it’s just me, but that, apart from seeming rather reactionary and
conservative, makes no sense.
It also makes no sense in the film, either. Vanellope
decides to fight against what she thinks her function is only to find out that
she was right all along, and she is – in fact – the heroine of her game, not
a bad guy (gal?). And the guy who looked like the good guy in the game? Yup –
he was the bad guy, after all.
So – do we accept our fate and fulfil the function that life
decrees for us or not? Should we strive to be the good guy? Or is it just
better to get on with it and stay in our place? For a film which tries to use
this as its central idea, it has curiously nothing to say about it. Okay. So,
it’s only a film. But that’s not an excuse, or it shouldn’t be. Now, I could
start talking about children, and morality, and the responsibility of films,
but I’m not going to, not least because that’s a whole can of worms right
But when films don’t obey their own logic? That’s a problem
which cuteness, fine voice acting, Sarah Silverman, and a whole cast of
computer game icons just can’t solve.
Film information comes from imdb.com and the Blu-Ray box.