Did some­body say ‘joy­stick’?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE


Di­rected by Rich Moore. Voices of John C Reilly, Sarah Sil­ver­man, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Dennis Hays­bert

107 min

G cert, gen­eral re­lease, Now, this was a film just wait­ing to hap­pen. Over the past decade, dig­i­tal an­i­ma­tors have given life to fish, rats, cars, in­sects, toys and di­nosaurs. How come no­body thought to ex­ploit a class of imag­i­nary be­ing that al­ready in­hab­ited the pixel uni­verse?

Wreck It Ralph some­what poignantly re­minds us that the first gen­er­a­tion of videogames are now suf­fi­ciently dis­tant in time to trig­ger nos­tal­gic sobs among the mid­dleaged. When we were play­ing th­ese things in the early 1980s, con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous grey-beards were wax­ing about the birth of rock’n’roll and rise of James Dean. Jeez!

To­day’s younger view­ers – though sure to en­joy Dis­ney’s lat­est fea­ture an­i­ma­tion – may need par­ents to ex­plain the lo­ca­tion to them. Wreck It Ralph takes place in some­thing called an “ar­cade”. Lis­ten, care­fully, Biff. In the olden days, chil­dren needed to leave the couch if they wanted to play a videogame.

Point­ing to­wards cer­tain le­gal com­pli­ca­tions, the film com­bines sup­port­ing play­ers from real videogames with lead per­form­ers from sly pas­tiche ver­sions. Wreck It Ralph (voiced ro­bustly by John C Reilly) is, es­sen­tially, a hu­man ver­sion of Don­key Kong. Each night he retires to a rub­bish heap while the perky heroes of his game party on in a

Son of Don­key Kong: John C Reilly voices Wreck It Ralph

boxy dig­i­tal sky­scraper. Ralph at­tends a self-help group for gam­ing vil­lains, but still feels un­wanted and un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated. Voy­ag­ing forth, Ralph finds him­self caught up with a day-glo tomboy in a flashy rac­ing game called Sugar Rush.

Wreck It Ralph doesn’t quite live up to the po­ten­tial of its premise. The graph­ics are de­li­cious. The con­trast be­tween dif­fer­ent gam­ing styles — Ralph tar­ries briefly in a rough shoot-’em up — are nicely high­lighted. The script has its fair share of de­cent one-lin­ers.

When Ralph reaches Sugar Rush, how­ever, the en­ergy dis­si­pates. The in-jokes de­crease. The cul­tural ref­er­ences lose some of their bite. In short, it ceases to mat­ter that the imag­ined uni­verse is that of a videogame.

Still, Wreck It Ralph de­serves its com­mer­cial success in the US. The prospect of in­evitable se­quels is more than bear­able.

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