‘Wreck-It Ralph’ – a Disney tribute to by-gone era of gaming

– Joe Keeley contributed to this report

“Wreck-It Ralph” is a cinematic love letter from Disney to classic, nostalgic video games. The film focuses on Ralph, an arcade game villain who is tired of being the bad guy. All he wants is to be accepted for who he is.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is the latest animated offering from Disney. Photo: Disney

Although his day job may involve smashing up an apartment block, Ralph has a big heart and is keen to prove it.

Ralph jumps from his game to Hero’s Duty, a modern first-person shooter, where he tries to earn a medal. Although he succeeds, something goes wrong and Ralph ends up crash landing into a cutesy kart-racing game called Sugar Rush and losing his prize.

It is here he meets Vanellope von Schweetz, a young girl who bargains for Ralphs’ help in order to win a race.

Meanwhile, with Ralph missing from his game, the rest of the characters are in jeopardy. With the bad guy gone there is nothing for Felix, the good guy, to fix. The game gets classed as broken and their arcade cabinet becomes at risk of shutting down.

Directed by Rich Moore of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” fame, the film is chock full of references to retro games. Bowser, Sonic and Pac-Man all make an appearance and there are tons of mentions of old series for the seasoned gamer to pick up on, for young and old gamers.

The former will cherish the idea that their video games still live on when they’re not there (a la “Toy Story), while the latter will enjoy picking out the nods to games from their own past.

Ralph is brought to life by a brilliant John C. Reilly, whose weary, warm portrayal brings heart to the character. Sarah Silverman provides the chords for Vanellope, a character who is a glitch in her game. She apparently shouldn’t exist, but that’s all she yearns to do.

Although Vanellope is charmingly annoying at first, the relationship between her and Ralph evolves as the film progresses, and their bond turns into something sweet.

The animation on offer here is top form, and there are lots of neat touches. Each character in Ralph’s game has a slightly stilted movement to represent their retro roots, while fluids splash in pixels and trees are square.

Even the game Sugar Rush is a scrumptious looking world where everything is made from bright, tasty confectionary. Here, “Wreck-It Ralph” does a good job of differentiating games from one another, both in genre and era.

Very occasionally the film will dip into typical Disney ground of spelling out a moral message, but that’s to be expected with the territory. That aside, “Wreck-It Ralph” is an animated gem and one of the few genuinely good flicks about video games. It is full of both nostalgia and humour and will appeal to even the most cynical of gamers.

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