Retro feel keeps Ralph real
N OW that the games industry is reaching its fourth decade, there has been a growing nostalgic movement among a certain generation to play "retro games", from which Disney has drawn inspiration to create Wreck-It Ralph.
The film supposes that characters from arcade machines are real and they live and interact with one another in the multi-socket plug hub known as Game Central Station.
Ralph (John C Reilly) is the antagonist in a retro arcade machine that is approaching it's 30th birthday. Disheartened that he was not invited to the celebrations for the games hero Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), he decides to leave his game and try to become a hero in another.
After accidentally crashing a spaceship from Hero's Duty into racing game Candy Rush, he meets Venellope (Sarah Silverman) – an outcast racer who is refused entry into the races. Working together they plan to enter the race, hoping that completion will lead to Venellope being accepted as a racer and Ralph as a hero.
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Like all good animation, Wreck-It Ralph sticks by its own internal logic. Thus games are filled with characters who are aware that their jobs are to "act" as avatars for the players and any problems with the game play may result in downtime or removal. This is the fate of old-school gaming character Q*bert and friends. It gives a real sense of threat in a world where death can be countered by an "extra life" or two.
Keen eyed observers will notice plenty of other recognisable characters, from Street Fighter's Zangief to Pac-Man. It's this keen attention to detail that shows that the makers of Wreck-It Ralph actually have an interest in their source material. So while the actual narrative may be a standard buddy road trip film, it retains an element of unique freshness.
It's not perfect though, and fails to reach the highest levels of animated glory, in part because of the off-putting product placement.
Anyone who has seen Morgan Spurlock's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold will have a heightened sense of product placement in films and there are some that get away with it. Wreck-It Ralph is not one of them.
While this sort of advertising is simply a given in today's film-making environment, in Wreck-It Ralph it leads to other, more sinister thoughts. It's tough to truly throw yourself into the narrative when there's a sneaking suspicion that businesses are pushing their goods upon an unsuspecting audience of children.
Fortunately there are still enough laughs and quality to keep these thoughts bubbling beneath the surface.
Mixing the retro game love with great characters and a funny script, Wreck-It Ralph further proves that animation is one of the most competitive and rewarding styles of film-making. Plus, who doesn't love a film with Frogger in it?