Wreck-It Ralph is nostalgic fun for lovers of video-games

Annabel Denham
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Cert: PG

Wreck-It Ralph was a project in good hands: executive produced by John Lasseter (Toy Story) and directed by Emmy-award winner Rich Moore (The Simpsons).

True to Disney form, its a journey towards the realisation that “there’s no one I’d rather be than me”, this time set inside the creative and colourful collection of video games that form Litwak’s Arcade. It made me want to dig out my old Sega for a quick game of Sonic the Hedgehog.

When the arcade closes each night, its game characters are free to travel to other games. Ralph (John C Reilly) is tired of being the bad guy in his own game, Fix-It Felix Junior. He spends his days destroying masonry and his nights sleeping alone in a pile of bricks, while his squeaky clean rival, Fix-It Felix Junior, laps up the glory that comes with being the hero. His game's retro vibe has kept the kids coming back for more, and its 30th anniversary has driven poor Ralph to existential crisis. But a rare appearance at the “Bad-Anon” support group for video game antagonists leads to an epiphany: he will travel to a different game and win a shiny gold medal to prove his worth.

Ralph busts into the warlike, hyper realistic Hero's Duty (it makes Gotham City look like Miami Beach), and gets his medal, but a run-in with the game's very own bad guys (“cy-bugs”) forces him to crash land next door in the saccharine go-kart game, Sugar Rush. In search of his medal, he meets fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). It’s here that the film switches from “kids film for adults”, complete with kidult humour (think Shrek), to “kids film for kids” (think Cars). The pair strike up an unlikely but mutually beneficial friendship – she needs help racing, he needs her to win back his stolen gold medal. They encounter perilous obstacles in the form of King Candy, who's like a Mad Hatter with wheels, and an attack of cy-bugs, who must be eliminated for the arcade to survive.

Lovers of 80s computer games will be filled with nostalgia, with myriad references to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and their ilk (Sugar Rush – a hot pink visual wonder with every sweet treat you could think of – is like a Japanese version of Super Mario Kart, complete with its very own Rainbow Road). Parallels with Pixar’s Toy Story abound – these arcade games fear they’ll be unloved and unplugged in the same way Woody and Buzz fear abandonment. But ultimately Wreck-It Ralph has too much Disney sentimentality and not enough of the depth or charm we have come to expect from one of Pixar’s modern classics.