Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

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After countless disastrous attempts to bring video game characters to film, the most recent shocker Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, it seems direct adaptation is not the answer. Gaming inspired films, such as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, tend to fend far better. 

Game on!

This delightful animated romp is cut from the same cloth.

Old school bad guy Ralph (Reilly) is looking for a career change. Thirty years as the bad guy demolishing buildings in the game Fix-It Felix only to see his efforts instantly repaired by goody two-shoes Felix (McBrayer) is beginning to take its toll. Living in a dump and unsuccessfully seeking friendship from his workmates leaves him in a dark depression. He’s tired of being the bad guy and leaves his game fixated on becoming a hero, not realising the effects his disappearance inflicts on his Fix-It Felix co-workers.

Hitting the electronic intersection (the connecting power board at the video arcade) known as Game Central Station Ralph tries his hand at light-gun insect-smashing shooter Hero’s Duty before heading into the candy-coated cart racer Sugar Rush. Here he stumbles upon the down in the dumps and glitchy Vanellope (Silverman) and the two team up to turn their fortunes around. But an errant bug hitching along for the ride and the mental monarch of Candy Land could spell game over for the two of them. Will they succeed? Can Ralph go against his programming and become a hero?

This another bug hunt, Ma’am?

Veteran animation director Rich Moore is completely at home in Wreck-It Ralph. With a distinguished pedigree following runs on The SimpsonsFuturamaDrawn Together and the underappreciated gem The Critic he’s drawn from his previous experiences to both write and direct a film with broad appeal to both adults and children, whether you’re a dedicated gamer or not.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a cheeky wink at hardcore gamers. There are dozens of subtle references to groundbreaking videogame franchises. There are the more obvious cameos with Zangief and M. Bison from Street Fighter and Clyde, a Ghost Monster from Pac-Man as part of Ralph’s Bad-Anon support group as well as homage to classic video games such as Q*bert, Pong and Root Beer Tapper.

They’re not bad, they’re just drawn that way

Delve a little deeper and a trained eye might notice graffiti at Game Central Station declaring “Aerith Lives!” in a nod to Final Fantasy VII, a poster with Sonic the Hedgehog, an exclamation mark alert and accompanying sound from Metal Gear Solid or Frogger jumping out of the way of Ralph’s destruction. You don’t need to be steeped in gaming lore to get all the jokes it’s more of a hidden bonus or Easter egg for those that do.

The game worlds range from retro, such as Ralph’s own game a combination of Donkey Kong and Rampage in glorious 8-bit stuttering graphics, to Mario Kart rip-off Sugar Rush to the insane bug-splattering action-fest Hero’s Duty riffing off military styled shooters such as the Call of Duty franchise.

There is a surprising amount of heart to Wreck-It Ralph though it never gets sickly sweet, instead finding the right balance to tug at your heartstrings. Each of the four main characters has some adversity in their programming which they unwittingly work together to overcome. John C. Reilly bring great sensitivity to Ralph and the comedic timing between his character and an almost unrecognisable Sarah Silverman as Vanellope is priceless.

Don’t move dirtbag

The same can be said for the mismatched duo of McBrayer as happy-go-lucky Felix Fix-It and Jane Lynch as the stern, hard as nails Sergeant Calhoun from Hero’s Duty. Written with the most tragic back-story in all of gamedom Calhoun keeps everyone at arm’s length until the smitten Felix starts to melt her icy heart. The unlikely chemistry between the two is pure magic with Lynch delivering scene-stealing performances every single time her character’s on screen.

Touching, gorgeously animated and gut-bustingly funny at times Wreck-It Ralph satisfies viewers of all ages, gamers or not. With shades of Brad Bird’s magnificent The Iron Giant it illustrates belief in yourself can overcome insurmountable odds. Simply put, you choose the type of person who you want to be. It’s an invaluable lesson for youngsters beautifully delivered in a film that speaks to your inner child and I simply can’t wait to go back and watch again.

(This review is courtesy of and was originally posted on Australian Penthouse’s website. The NSFW link can be found here)

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.