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Wreck-It Ralph

Entry updated 3 January 2022. Tagged: Film.

Animated film (2012). Walt Disney Animation Studios (see The Walt Disney Company). Directed by Rich Moore. Written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, based on a story by Moore, Johnston and Jim Reardon. Cast includes John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman. 108 minutes. Colour.

Thirty years after Tron (1982) took us inside the secret Virtual Reality world of a single Computer, Wreck-It Ralph takes us inside a whole arcade. It is a film for the post-Tron generation who grew up on Videogames and, as an exercise in translating their nostalgia into a compelling narrative, it is more successful than recent efforts aimed at adults such as Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) or Ernest Cline's Ready Player One (2011).

Ralph (Reilly) is the baddie in the obsolete 1980s game Fix-It Felix. As his self-help group tells him, "just because you are 'bad guy', does not mean you are bad guy"; but Ralph wants to win the affection of Felix and the rest of the characters in his game by proving he can be the goodie. This means breaking into a modern First Person Shooter, defeating a ravening bug horde and winning a medal. However, a misstep in the bugs' egg chamber (lifted from Alien [1979]) causes him to imperil a third Game-World, that of the candy-coloured racing game Sugar Rush. Ralph fixes the situation, but Moore is more interested in the personal growth of our AI hero as he rises above his programming with the help of fellow outcast Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman). With its physically-intimidating but warm-hearted protagonist forming a surrogate father relationship with an irritating but adorable young girl, there is a clear resemblance to Pixar's Monsters, Inc. (2001). Usually this would be a dangerous comparison to draw, but it is actually evidence of the shrinking quality gap between Disney and Pixar under joint Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter. This is most obvious in the sharpness of the humour, which contrasts with the typical slickness of its three act structure; it is Moore's film debut but he has previously directed episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama and Johnson and Lee gave him an appropriately funny script. Despite this, Wreck-It Ralph lost the Best Animated Feature Oscar to Brave (2012), one of Pixar's weakest efforts. [ML]

see also: Children's SF; Cinema.


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