JUMPY, clumpy, choppy Ralph has shovel-sized hands and the voice of John C Reilly.
Wreck It Ralph (PG)
Director: Rich Moore
Running time: 108 minutes
He’s also the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix, where he smashes up a block of flats until perky Felix (Jack McBrayer), the hero of the game, arrives with his magic hammer and repairs the damage.
At night, when the computer arcade is closed, Felix has penthouse parties with the other residents, while Ralph is left to bed down for the night in a rubble of bricks and mortar, unloved and unappreciated.
Since game characters can move around the arcade like tube commuters, provided they are back in their own games by morning, Ralph seeks solace in Bad-Anon, a help group for reluctant game villains, which is hosted by one of the ghosts from Pac-Man, and attracts fireball contributions from the Super Mario Brothers’ dragon.
By the way, that’s about the limit of my computer knowledge – even Donkey Kong sounds a bit too much like an adult movie for me – and how much you enjoy Wreck-it Ralph probably depends on your own level of joystick junkiedom. The voice artist of the original Super Mario is one sly nod to the fanboys, while a snorky monster begging for food in random phonemes gains pathos if you recognise him as Q*Bert, an early Gottlieb creation, whose game fell out of fashion years ago.
Unpopularity is only one of the pitfalls in the computer game universe: if you die whilst outside your own game, you don’t regenerate. It’s game over. So when Ralph enters a trigger-happy action adventure called Hero’s Duty, commanded by the Lara Croftesque Calhoun (Jane Lynch), he is risking his life trying to steal a medal. Meanwhile, Fix-It Felix also leaves his own game to find Ralph, putting their home in danger of being turned off for good.
Rich Moore’s film slides between three worlds: the Fix-It residents move in the jerky 8-bit manner familiar to children of the 1980s, while in Hero’s Duty the characters are all James Cameron high-definition warriors. And when Ralph winds up in a girl-targeted game called Sugar Rush, he’s surrounded by cuddly Japanese animes. This land is a confection of soft mints, gumdrops and hot Coke springs presided over by King Candy (Alan Tudyk, doing a fair impression of Ed Wynn, the lisping Mad Hatter from Disney’s Alice In Wonderland). He may not be as sweet as he appears, but the most acid element is Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a scrappy little besom who gets left out of the Sugar Rush races because she’s got a glitch, which causes her to flutter and pixelate. Do she and Ralph clash, and then collaborate? Does Frogger have the road sense of a ferret with an espresso habit?
The Toy Story movies focused on our relationship with childhood things and their secret lives, and Wreck-it Ralph tends to follow this theme too, although it lacks Toy Story’s emotional investment, and seems a little too keen on product placement – especially in Sugar Rush world. But mostly it’s a charming, funny, beautifully animated little kick, at a time when there’s been little to beguile kids over the winter season.
However, Ralph already feels like an exercise in nostalgia with its arcade setting. Nowadays most computer games are played at home, and appear to involve killing cops or zombies. “@#!%!” as Q*bert might say.
On general release from Friday