Wreck-It Ralph

Toy Story goes to the arcade

Wreck-It Ralph

Rating Wreck-It RalphWreck-It RalphWreck-It RalphWreck-It Ralph

Directed by Rich Moore. Starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Scott Menville, Jamie Elman, Skylar Astin, Alan Tudyk, Joe Lo Truglio, Ed O’Neill, Rachael Harris, Mindy Kaling, Dennis Haysbert. Written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, story by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon.

Note: Wreck-It Ralph is screening in a Czech-dubbed version in most cinemas, but you can catch it in English at Cinema City Slovanský dům in 2D (at 13:10 and 19:30 through 22.11) and 3D (14:30 & 18:30). Below review refers to the 3D version of the film. 

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A vibrant, fast-paced ride, Disney has a real winner in Wreck-It Ralph, which should entertain parents just as much as their kids. Just as long as those parents can appreciate the early 80s retro feel and a barrage of arcade and video game references (from Pac-Man to Super Mario Brothers to The House of the Dead) which help elevate a pedestrian storyline into something fun and unique. 

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the chief villain in Fix It Felix, Jr., a Donkey Kong-like arcade game in which hero Felix (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer) repairs damage Ralph causes to an apartment building. The game console itself sits among Frogger and Space Invaders at a local arcade, where it has endured popularity for the past 30 years.

The movie, however, mostly takes place inside the game; or rather, inside the world of video games at the arcade. While the machines operate normally by day, when they’re not being played – a la Toy Story – the characters in the games come to life, and even travel between games (a surge protector serves as an airport-like hub). When Ralph wants a pint, he heads over to Tapper.

This is a great concept, with vital incorporation of real-life games and characters; while the three main machines (Wreck-It Ralph, Hero’s Duty, a intense first-person shooter, and Sugar Rush, a candy-themed racer) have been created for the movie, just about everything else is a real-life game. Retro video game fans are sure to get a rush of nostalgia from all the references, which are carefully woven into story throughout the film.

We first meet Ralph at support group for villains alongside Bowser, Dr. Eggman, and Mortal Kombat’s Kano. He’s tired of being the bad guy, an outcast in his own game, living in a dump and missing out on the big 30th anniversary party. His quest for acceptance brings him to Sugar Rush, where he meets another outcast: Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) a ‘glitch’ character who can never officially be a part of the game. 

The majority of the film takes place inside Sugar Rush, a sickly-sweet Willy Wonka-like land filled with as many candy references as the rest of the film has arcade references. The animators are clearly having fun here, but it’s a sensory overload – after more than half an hour in this place, the alien insects from Hero’s Duty are a welcome reprieve.   

Wreck-It Ralph was directed by Rich Moore, making his theatrical debut; Moore previously worked on The Simpsons (directing some of the series’ most beloved episodes), The Critic, and Futurama. Here, he’s created the perfect blend of retro gaming nostalgia and delivered Disney Animation’s best film in years. In a banner year for animated movies, Wreck-It Ralph stands with Pirates! and Paranorman at the top. 

The 3D used in Wreck-It Ralph is proficient but utterly unmemorable; I’d recommend catching the 2D version. The film is preceded by Paperman, a terrific black & white short.

Note: while most of Wreck-It Ralph is perfect for family audiences, some of the sequences from the Halo-like Hero’s Duty, which feature armed commandos battling waves of alien insects, might be too intense for the youngest viewers. 

Also opening:

  • Love Is All You Need (showtimes | IMDb), a Danish comedy-drama from director Susanne Bier (In a Better World, Brothers) starring Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm. Screening in Danish/English with Czech subtitles.
  • In Darkness (showtimes | IMDb), an Oscar-nominated Holocaust drama from Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa). Screening in Polish with Czech subtitles.  
  • Až do města Aš (showtimes | IMDb), a Slovak drama from director Iveta Grófová. Screening in Czech/Slovak.

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