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Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Posted by Mike Mason

It's good to be bad

The film and television industry is traditionally content to boss over video games: movie adaptations of popular gaming franchises are more often than not sub-par, while other projects reference games lazily without any real understanding of the medium. Outside of documentaries like Indie Game: The Movie and more careful efforts such as Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, gaming is rarely given the respect it warrants when it comes to film.

Finally released in the UK on 8th February, three months after its initial North American release, Wreck-It Ralph is a welcome tonic to the usual lackadaisical attitude towards our beloved pastime. Disney Animation Studios, building on previous CG successes such as Tangled and Bolt, has made a movie that pays tribute to video games without making a mockery of them.

Set in a utopian fantasy land where arcades are still popular, packed and seemingly profitable, Wreck-It Ralph is a love letter to retro video games with more than a splash of Toy Story. The avatars in each game cabinet are happy to act as electronic toys and entertain anybody who inserts a coin, but as soon as the lights go out each night they break sequence to follow their own digital desires, free to roam between all the games of the arcade. The first time this switch occurs is superb.

The title character is the antagonist in Fix-It Felix, Jr., a Rampage-style game in which the player clambers up a tower repairing any damage caused by Ralph. Ralph isn't happy, though: while Felix is given medals daily and celebrated, Ralph is ostracised by his co-workers and forced to sleep in a rubbish heap while they inhabit a penthouse. The kicker is, he doesn't even particularly like being the bad guy.

Ralph's doing his best to get along with the other characters of Fix-It Felix, Jr. despite everything. He's attending group therapy to cope with the existence he's been dealt, along with a host of self-pitying well-known baddies including Bowser, Dr Robotnik, Street Fighter's Zangief and, somewhat bizarrely given the content of the series, Kano from Mortal Kombat. However, one night he's pushed too far and sets off on a journey into another game to claim a medal of his own to gain the respect of his cabinetmates. Of course, trouble ensues.

Wreck-It Ralph strikes a good balance to cater to a wide audience. There are piles of references to pixels past for nostalgia-giddy retro gamers; with Capcom, Nintendo, Sega, Namco and Atari featuring prominently, plus a little Taito, Konami and Midway, this should be a fun film to re-watch to catch every little wink. While younger viewers might be oblivious to much of this, there's still lots to love thanks to a decent story and careful curation of cameos. Characters such as Q*bert – who slots into a small role brilliantly — won't be recognisable to most youngsters, but they're each used well enough to appeal whether they're known or not.

The first forty minutes or so are especially dense with homage, from familiar items and sound effects to advertising boards emblazoned with Sonic the Hedgehog, plus dozens of appearances from gaming icons oblique and obvious. The gaming nods do taper off around the halfway point, when they become mixed in with candy jibes thanks to a trip into saccharine sweet kart racer Sugar Rush, but the film has enough quality about it to compensate and is consistent for the most part.

The bar may not have been set especially high for the video game movie, but Wreck-It Ralph leaps right over it: if you're a fan of both gaming and Disney, this is a must-see. Respectful of gaming as it prods fun at it, and even occasionally a little touching, Wreck-It Ralph is well worth some of your shiny gold coins.

And for a real retro treat, make sure you stay to watch the ending credits.

Don't forget to check out our other Movie Reviews so far, to see how other gaming subjects have translated to the big — or small — screen.

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User Comments (37)

WolfyWardark

#1

WolfyWardark said:

I saw the film yesterday and I'll have to agree, it was well worth some of my shiny gold coins! :)

Xilef

#2

Xilef said:

Watched it yesterday. I loved it! Easily one of my favorite Disney movies. It was a real love letter to gaming at the same time it was a awesome movie.

TwilightV

#4

TwilightV said:

It's deliciously ironic that Roger Ebert likes this movie.
I'd like to see them focus some on the vast history of the movie's development. Maybe they could incorporate it into a sequel?

MayhemStaff

#6

Mayhem said:

The story plotline itself isn't majorly original, but combined with the context of videogames and actively able to do some things that only that medium would allow story wise, then it comes off as putting a new twist into proceedings. And despite being Disney, it isn't completely predictable either. I really enjoyed it.

Rapido

#7

Rapido said:

Bad guy affirmation: I am bad and thats good. I will never be good and thats not bad. There‘s noone I‘d rather be than me

StarDust4Ever

#8

StarDust4Ever said:

Excelent movie by the way. It's sad y'all had to wait so long to see it across the pond. It's a shame the video game versions sucked donkey from what I hear.

RadioShadow

#9

RadioShadow said:

^ Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed doesn't suck. Ralph makes a nice decent playable character.

Actually, I think this is one rare occasion where I actually stayed and watched the credits at the end. They were that good, pixels and all!

NintyMan

#10

NintyMan said:

Wreck-It Ralph really is a love letter to gamers everywhere. The cameos are a treat to spot out and I'll be doing that a few times once I get my hands on the DVD soon. But while we're all busy with finding cool cameos, it's nice to see that the story of the film itself is solid with a few good twists.

Whopper744

#13

Whopper744 said:

Really enjoyed this myself! Want to say some good comments about the movie but I'm not sure where to start! :p

SheldonRandoms

#14

SheldonRandoms said:

I was expecting a star rating at the end of the review XD

But yeah, Wreck it Ralph is a great movie, hopefully Mario can be put into the sequel (if they make it)

Drawdler

#15

Drawdler said:

Nintendo Life did a movie review.
About Wreck-It Ralph.
And it was lauded.
I think I reacted a bit too much in my head. :P You cannot blame me, I DO have all the plushies and a good majority of the books and a soundtrack on top, I'm just in love with it.
A truly superb film, anyone who does not see it is missing out on a treat. Scratch it, a whole meal.

HawkeyeWii

#16

HawkeyeWii said:

Haha yeah it's a great movie but I saw it like 4 months ago. I forgot that Europe gets our movies really late sometimes.

TKOWL

#18

TKOWL said:

I honestly connected so much to this movie when I first saw it that I went back and watched it three more times in the theaters. Honestly one of my all time favorite movies, and one I'm going to watch dozens of times over.

WingedSnagret

#20

WingedSnagret said:

A long overdue movie that finally showcases the retro and modern worlds of gaming in a proper way. Can't wait to get the DVD (maybe even Blu-Ray) when it comes out.

Dodger

#21

Dodger said:

Wreck-It-Ralph was great, and it sold quite well too. Was I the only one that felt that the girl from Hero's Duty was supposed to be a parody of Samus from Metroid: Other M?

LordJumpMad

#22

LordJumpMad said:

I'll tell you what, it was a good movie to take your date to because I won a metal afterwards u_u

Also, if NintendoLife is doing movie reviews, do The Wizard next!

FOURSIDE_BOY

#25

FOURSIDE_BOY said:

It is an excellent movie which introduces a fantastic and lovable character: Vanellope Von Schweetz; the part with her car being smashed by ralph and the part where ralph is willing to sacrifice his life for her almost made me cry. I really hope for a sequel.

MagicEmperor

#30

MagicEmperor said:

I was completely surprised when King Candy ended up my favorite character. And I didn't recognize Alan Tudyk's voice at all; I thought it was Ed Wynn back from the dead. Amazing.

Link-Hero

#31

Link-Hero said:

It took almost 30 years, but we finally got a proper good video game based movie. It has set new standards for all video game movie adaptations. Hopefully, future video game based movies will follow suit as well.

@Dodger

Umm, no. She is just a parody of main characters/npcs with overly dramatic back stories in most generic fps's/other game genres.

astroshamu

#34

astroshamu said:

Disney studios makes awesome movies, Tangled and wreck it Ralph are my two favorite movies of all time

sinalefa

#36

sinalefa said:

And I was complaining because I had to wait until December 23rd to see this one!

I loved the movie and I am counting the days for the Blu Ray to release. Anyone interested in video games should really give it a chance.

LaraRoc

#37

LaraRoc said:

To think, my boyfriend wanted to see this in theaters, but we didn’t end up going. I’m feeling a bit guilty about working all those extra shifts at DISH now that I’m reading how awesome Wreck-It Ralph is. I’m so glad that I’ll be able to make it up to my BF by adding it to the Blockbuster @Home queue that I have through DISH. The Blu-ray will be delivered right to our door when it’s released, and I won’t have to buy it or hunt it down at a Redbox.

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