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Movies Review

'Wreck-It Ralph' review: A fine tribute to the world of video games

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Director: Rich Moore; Screenwriters: Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee; Starring: John C Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling; Running time: 101 mins; Certificate: U


To date, the video game industry has had something of a traumatic relationship with Hollywood. Resident Evil aside, no game brand has managed to parlay its success into a durable movie franchise. The likes of Street Fighter and Super Mario have failed to set the box office on fire, and the film thought of the most highly by critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes, is Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within with only a measly 44% approval rating.

The best video games movies aren't actually based on games at all. Films like Source Code, with its cycle of die/restart, and the relentlessly energetic Crank perhaps best harness the language and aesthetic of the medium.

Wreck-It Ralph still
Now comes Wreck-It Ralph, a Disney animation about a sad sack video game character who's tired of being the bad guy on a classic arcade platformer. The eponymous Ralph (John C Reilly), visits a villains' support group where he shares his gripes with the likes of Bowser, M Bison and Doctor Eggman.

He's the big-fisted antagonist of the game Fix-It Felix Jr, tearing apart an apartment building while a preppy handyman Felix Jr (30 Rock's Jack McBrayer) tries to put it back together.

When Ralph is barred from attending the game's 30th anniversary celebrations, he sets out to claim a game winner's medal and prove his worth.

Ralph's journey throws him into the world of Hero's Duty, a cutting-edge first-person shooter featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), and the vibrant colourscapes of racer Sugar Rush. The perky Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a girl driver with a code glitch that makes her an outsider, teams up with Ralph when her game is threatened with shutdown.

It's the relationship that forms between Ralph and Vanellope that provides the sentimental Disney-style hook for the story, but director Rich Moore and writers Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee are able to meld it into an engaging narrative that's a celebration of gaming and its culture.

Wreck-It Ralph is a dazzling show of sound and colour, tipping its hat to the 8-bit era and modern-day touchstones. The design of the video game worlds are eye-catching, with sequences involving Mentos dropping into a Diet Cola Mountain and a post-apocalyptic alien shoot-out particular stand-outs.

The movie also acts as a fine tribute to the world of Super Mario. Fix-It Felix Jr itself is a close cousin to Donkey Kong, with the titular character lining up beside the Italian plumber and Wreck-It Ralph the DK stand-in. The vivid candy-coloured courses of Sugar Rush also take a leaf out of Mario Kart's book. You don't need to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy this, though. It's fast, fun and brings a fresh twist to a traditional Disney story of redemption and acceptance.



Wreck-It Ralph opens in UK cinemas on Friday, February 8.

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