*** (3 stars)
Wreck-It Ralph takes place in the invisible-to-humans part of the arcade world, where the character of the title laments his inability to be anything else but a bad guy. He is the nemesis of Fix-It Felix in a 1980s arcade game, designed by Disney animators in the typical pixilated style of any computer game of the period, bringing a sense of nostalgia to an HD era.
The plot promisingly follows Ralph (John C Reily) as he struggles for some form of recognition among the rest of the arcade characters. This forces him to go to another game in search of his own medal. However, as he leaves the world of Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), the game is temporarily shut down because its villain is gone and children are no longer interested in playing it.
As we enter the backstage world of the arcade games, the small figures, though entertaining, strongly remind us of the characters in the three Toy Story films. What the trailer does not reveal is that after losing his newly-won medal Ralph needs to go into yet another game, called Sugar Rush, where the film is mostly set. However, the novelty of the pink world, inhabited by candy and the little girls, who make racing cars out of them, quickly wears off and becomes boring. During his search Ralph encounters the glitch Vanillope (Sarah Silverman), who is not even meant to be in the game because she cannot function like the rest of the Sugar Rush characters. Although she is irritating initially, she quickly wins over the giant Ralph. In the meantime, Fix-It Felix sets off to find Ralph and save their game, accompanied by the fierce female warrior and Hero’s Duty character Calhoun (Jane Lynch).
Although the film is based on a wonderful and original idea, it cannot escape the struggle to resemble Pixar films, either through its characters or through the relationships between them that it tries to build. It is obviously trying to develop a heart-warming storyline between Ralph and Vanillope but as the story progresses this proves rather predictable. Despite some of the cute jokes, it is tiring to listen to the many names Ralph and Vanillope throw at each other. As she later transforms into a rightful inhabitant of Sugar Rush and is no longer the simple glitch, Vanillope curiously looks like a mini-version of the Queen of Hearts of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland while the Candy King of the same game resembles Disney’s Mad Hatter.
Despite the fact that it is an entertaining film full of funny characters, some of their jokes fall flat and the script does not explain some of the story details. Furthermore, towards the end of the film, it seems that the story is seeking an easy way out, attempting to give explanations for all gaps but unsuccessfully. For example, although the Sugar Rush characters accept her by the end, the audience is never given a reason for Vanillope becoming a glitch in the first place. Through her mini-queen gown, it is suggested that she was meant to take the king’s place but it is never directly stated, leaving space for speculation on the viewers’ part.
Overall, Wreck-It Ralph makes for an entertaining evening but there was certainly a reason for it losing its Oscar to Pixar’s Brave at this year’s Academy Awards.