Walt Disney Animation Studios, the once-legendary studio that’s been so overshadowed in recent years by stablemate Pixar Animation Studios, has come out with a true gem with “Wreck-It Ralph.” It’s a superbly rendered, supremely creative effort that lovingly pays tribute to 1980s arcade games.
Directed by feature first-timer and longtime Simpsons hand Rich Moore, “Wreck-It Ralph”‘s plot combines the premise of “Toy Story” with a little bit of “Tron”: The titular Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain of a Donkey Kong-like video game, who decides he’s sick of being the bad guy in his game and wants to be the hero instead.
In the movie’s universe- and this is a really, really great touch- the different video games in the arcade are like cities, all connected by a subway-like system. But the characters face dire consequences if they’re caught out of their game for too long, with the unplugging of their game representing the equivalent of death.
Ralph ends up in a Candyland-esque racing game called Sugar Rush, where he helps out a little girl racer (voiced by Sarah Silverman) while battling the evil King Candy (Alan Tudyk, doing a movie-length impression of Garry Marshall.) Also on hand is a female soldier character (Jane Lynch) and the good guy from Ralph’s original game (Jack McBrayer.)
So what makes “Wreck-It Ralph” so entertaining? The story is creative and well-told. We get such touches as a character leaving the “Pac Man” game by exiting through the “Pac-Man” board along with the ghosts, and the villain manipulating the code of the game. The film creates a world and renders it beautifully, while celebrating nostalgia for old video games.
It’s rather touching, in unexpected ways. Even the 3D use, unlike in most cases of animated movies, actually adds something to the proceedings. The filmmakers also appear to have put a lot of effort into getting copyright approval for a lot of different games in a whole lot of universes.
“Wreck-It Ralph” is absolutely worth seeing whether you’re a kid or an adult. I’d venture to say it’s better overall than the last two Pixar films.