A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfil his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C.Reilly) is the bad guy in an old school 8-bit video arcade game called Fix-It Felix Junior. The premise of the game is straightforward; there is an apartment complex filled with “Nicelanders” who are terrorised whenever Ralph wrecks the building, however Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his magic hammer soon reconstruct it.
Although Ralph and the other characters are only playing roles and the game is their “day-job”, somehow he can’t find acceptance from the apartment dwellers. He goes to a support group for video game villains to help him deal with his feelings. When Fix-It Felix and Wreck-It Ralph have their joint birthday (the game turns 30), the fact he continues to be shunned by the other characters in the game, causes Ralph to leave and look for somewhere he can be a hero.
All the games are situated in Litwak’s Arcade. This is a world that has a Grand Central Station hub area where the commuting characters converge. There are rules and checks to prevent characters from simply entering other games, but Ralph manages to sneak into a first-person shooter and a kart-racing game. While traversing these new games, he inadvertently creates a problem that could bring about a permanent end to all the games in the arcade. Ralph has to find a way to undo the damage he’s done.
Director Rich Moore’s WRECK-IT RALPH is an attempt to create an animated feature that is the gaming equivalent of a TOY STORY. Old School gamers will enjoy the many appearances of characters like Q-bert and the Street Fighter franchise. In this way, the movie is also reminiscent of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988); we are allowed to enter the off-duty world of characters that are made to entertain us, but have a secret life of their own. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT used a detective story as a framework; WRECK IT RALPH develops into more of a buddy-movie adventure.
Ralph encounters Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) a glitch who isn’t supposed to be part of the game she is in. They form a reluctant alliance. Meanwhile Fix-It Felix searches for Ralph because he recognises that without him, their game cannot exist. The tough-talking Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from the first person shooter, also becomes involved in the hunt for Ralph. It is notable that the four leads all have considerable comic chops and this keeps the performances funny and lively. Ralph, Felix, Vanelope and Calhoun are also partially modelled on the physical appearance of the voice talent, although John C. Reilly’s hands are probably smaller in real life.
There is a definite attempt at bringing some gender balance to the story telling with two male characters and two female characters as leads. There’s even an interesting commentary about Disney princesses right at the very end, which seemed a little awkward to me, but clearly the Mouse House is aware that not everyone loves the princess concept.
Interestingly, of the 170 plus game characters that can apparently be found in the movie, there is a skew to ones from older games. This may simply reflect the video arcade setting. Director Moore says that licensing considerations or mere fan service didn’t drive him. Apparently, the team couldn’t come up with a Mario gag that was relevant, so left the popular character out. Word is the sequel will deal more with PC and console gaming.
The story moves quickly and the set pieces are brilliantly animated. There are many gaming in-jokes that older viewers can enjoy as the brightly coloured story whizzes by. WRECK IT RALPH is aimed at a family audience and both kids and their parents should be entertained by this funny, lightweight concoction.