In 2006, Disney made the very smart decision to buy Pixar. Almost immediately – and perhaps due to the influence of Pixar creatives such as John Lasseter – their animation output started increasing… and getting substantially better. After the commercial and critical success of 2010′s phenomenal Tangled, the world (well, perhaps not the entire world) waited for Disney Animation Studios’ next project with bated breath.
Enter Wreck-It Ralph. The titular Ralph (Reilly) is the villain in an arcade game. Guess what? – he wrecks stuff. Even so, after years and years of doing the same thing, day after day, he has lost his motivation. He’s tired of wrecking… tired of being the bad guy. Just once, he wants the game’s inhabitants to adore him as much as they do their hero, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer).
So, Ralph sets out on journey, traveling from game to game in order to find that which will finally garner him the love he desires. Every game world he visits is beautifully created – from the dark chaos of Hero’s Duty to the saccharine colours of Sugar Rush. There is an extraordinary level of detail not just in the world, but also in what happens within it. One could pause the frame in every scene and scour the background for in-jokes, easter eggs and hidden video game references.
Equally, the story is at a similar level of polish. In an animation project, a director’s feedback loop is very different than that of a live action film. Feedback and input from writers, producers, directors, storyboard artists etc. is constant throughout all stages of production. This means that the animation process becomes a sort of film making by committee. This has obvious benefits: you can cherry pick the best ideas and use all sorts of input to perfect the structure. And it shows. Wreck-It Ralph zips along at a fast pace, never lagging or boring.
However, this process also seems to have lead to the one thing that prevents Wreck-It Ralph from being a truly stand-out film. Although director Rich Moore and crew have managed to create the most accessible, well-crafted film of recent memory – in doing so, they also fell into the trap of crafting a very predictable film. There are many surprises in this film – wondrous scenes that will charm and dazzle you – but the story and structure aren’t one of them. Ralph’s journey from selfish to selfless is an age-old trope that is executed very well, but fails to bring something new to the table.
All in all, I very much enjoyed Wreck it Ralph. It is fast, beautiful, charming and, most importantly, very funny – but it won’t go anywhere you don’t expect it to. Even so, it is a very enjoyable experience, worth watching for all ages.