Wreck-It Ralph (2012) – A Nostalgic Digital Throwback

I can still remember back in 2012 when the invite for the WRECK-IT RALPH premiere popped into my inbox like a 1-Up from a freshly-punched question block. My expectations were set all the way up to 11. The film looked like a cameo-covered 64 bit nostalgia ride through our collective digital childhood. It read like a geek-girl’s gaming dream. Enjoy my retro review for this treasure from the Vaulty Popcorn archives.
– Kernel Claire

WRECK-IT RALPH is rated PG , runs for 101mins and is available for streaming on Disney+ / home entertainment services including DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s brought to us by The House of Mouse – A.K.A Walt Disney Studios. With Cinemas shortly set to reopen, I’m hoping we can see this one on the big screen again because that chocolate mudslide racing track will look DELICIOUS on the silver screen.

Ralph (John C Reily) and Venelope (Sarah Silverman) size up their saccharine steed

BY CLAIRE SMITH

GAMEPLAY:

Video game villain Wreck-It Ralph becomes disenchanted with the notion of playing the bad guy. He laments the fact that his video-game protagonist “Fix-it Felix” receives a nightly “hero’s medal” from his fellow citizens. Ralph is left to watch from afar, alone and uncomfortable in his brickyard dump.
The digital characters celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary without him. So Ralph convinces himself that if he could just earn a hero’s medal, even from a different game. Perhaps it would mean he would be loved and celebrated by his fellow digital citizens.
And so begins the electric charged adrenalin surge that is Wreck-It Ralph.

Wreck-It Ralph (John C Reily) confronts Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) about his existential digital predicament.

THE SPEED-RUN:

The hundred-minute run time just flies by. We see level after level of nostalgic gaming references and pop-culture puns. The first half of the film is filled with absolute candy-coated craziness. The slight lag of pace in the second act is a welcomed breather from the manic rapid-fire of character introductions and plot establishments.
There’s character cameos a go-go, with nods to classics like Q*bert and Sonic the Hedgehog. Seeing such recognisable characters as King Bowser (Mario Land) and Zangief (Street Fighter) interact together at Game Central Station and confess their electric-dreams at the “Bad Anon” meetings is a humorous sight. Who knew that bad guys had so many feelings? The story is laid out perfectly. There really is no need for a Konami Code cheat in order to clock this strange premise.

Bad-Anon: Where villains take it one game at a time and chant “I’m bad; and that’s good. There’s no-one I’d rather be than me.”

SELECT YOUR PLAYER:

The role of Ralph doesn’t seem like  much of a stretch for John C Reily (STEP BROTHERS. MAGNOLIA.). Compare this role to some of the more complex figures he’s played (THE RIVER WILD. GANGS OF NEW YORK). Reily fits the role perfectly with just enough charm. It means the younger audience members are easily able to side with him in the storyline. Kids won’t be scared or confused by this big red behemoth.

Jane Lynch (GLEE, 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN) play’s rock-em-sock-em “Hero’s Duty” game’s squadron leader Sergeant Calhoun. Calhoun is programmed with “the most tragic of back-stories”. She must assist Jack McBrayer’s (30 ROCK. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL.) geeky-hero character Fix-it Felix to return Ralph to his rightful game. There’s no time to spare before the whole adventure becomes a saccharine soaked nightmare. Lynch absolutely steals the show with Sgt Calhoun’s gruff exterior and metaphor-laden quips. Granted, it’s the same character we see Lynch playing a lot. Just think “Sue Sylvester” from GLEE in a Kevlar suit and you’re pretty close. Her high energy, take-no-prisoners attitude is a necessary addition to the otherwise fluffy and disorganised lead players.

Sarah Silverman (THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM. SCHOOL OF ROCK.) rounds up the player selections with the cutesy-wootsy “pyxlexia” afflicted Venelope Von-Schweetz. And oh boy does she lay it on thick with her big doe-eyes and diabetes inducing dialogue. Although somewhat overpowering in her cuteness, she is the character that the kids can relate to; afflicted with similar existential crises to Ralph, she needs his help as much as he needs hers. She’s unable to leave her Mario-Kart style racing game “Sugar Rush”. She’s also ineligible for the race itself. Venellope and Ralph must work together so their respective games are correctly reset before the plug is pulled and it’s game over, man!

It’s a sad fate for games whose power has been unplugged. They are stuck in Game Central Station without a home.

THE PIXELS:

The animation in this flick is just fantastic. The characters’ animation and movements reflect their game’s release era. Characters from the 70’s move with an eye-pleasing “refresh rate” that matches their 8-bit movements. They interact flawlessly with the higher-definition characters of recent games. Flashbacks have a pixellated glaze on screen. It makes the image look like a giant CRT-screened arcade box that would sell for a mint on eBay. Authentic sound grabs from the video games enhance the world that exists in these games once the player-credit is spent. 

Ralph (John C Reily) yearns to don The Hero’s Medal in Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

THE FINAL BOSS:

WRECK-IT RALPH is a must see for anyone who’s ever spent their pocket money on playing video games at the arcade. Anyone who’s begged Santa for a gaming console at Christmas. Anyone who argued with their parents about “save points” and needing five more minutes. It’s a delightful movie. You’ll walk away smiling – even if you’ve never played a bonus level in your life. There’s so many nostalgic nods embedded like Easter eggs in this film. You’ll be hoping for a continue countdown after the final credits.

KERNEL CLAIRE’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL ELIE’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL JASON’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL JOHN’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Kernel Claire has been writing for Salty Popcorn since 2011 and has recently stepped in to the editor’s chair to help out with publishing the Kernel’s collective reviews. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for almost 20yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.