It would be something of an understatement to say that filmmakers have ‘struggled’ to make decent adaptations of videogames over the last couple of decades, so non-retro-gaming aficionados will be pleased to learn that ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is not actually based on any existing arcade game.
Disney have, however, licensed a number of existing characters for cameo appearances, and trying to recognise them all could add a level of enjoyment to adults who grew up with such games now having to take their kids to see ‘Wreck-It Ralph’.
All the characters treat their games like their day jobs, and then they all relax after the arcade closes. The arcade world is wonderfully realised, with the power cables connecting the machines appearing as subway lines within them, all connecting to ‘game central’ station.
Ralph himself (John C. Reilly) is the villain in a now 30-year old ‘Donkey Kong’ style game in which the hero, Fix-It Felix Jr., must try to repair a house faster than Ralph can destroy it. He is fed up of being the bad guy though, and wants to be a hero like the popular Felix. When it becomes too much for Ralph, he ‘game jumps’ entering into a modern Sci-Fi shooting game to try and win a medal, then from there into a candy-themed kart racing game.
The first half of the film is hugely enjoyable as we get taken into several games, all of which have their own unique world. However, from there we spend nearly all of the latter half in the candy kart game, where Ralph teams up with a slightly annoying young character from it who is rejected by the others as she ‘glitches’ (a nice touch). Then the story becomes more formulaic and focuses on a well-meaning, but familiar message.
‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is clearly made with a good deal of love for the arcade games it draws from, and has a great premise for an animated adventure, but it’s one they really could have done a bit more with.