Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
It’s not easy being misunderstood. Thinking that people just don’t get you. Feeling that you’re left out, isolated from the crowd. This is the case for Ralph (John C. Reilly), a video game character who is frustrated with his life.
Ralph is the villain in thirty year old arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr., in which he wrecks everything title character Felix fixes, the object of the game being for the player – as Felix – to fix everything Ralph destroys and win a medal. However, Ralph’s detachment from the other characters in the game continues even after the arcade where they all live closes for the night. None of them want to speak to him, barely acknowledge him, and even throw a party for the 30th anniversary of their game without inviting Ralph to it.
After eventually being begrudgingly allowed into the party, Ralph inadvertently causes chaos once more and is asked to leave by the others. He does not give in though, instead insisting that he, like Felix (Jack McBrayer) or any of the other ‘good guys’, is capable of winning a medal and being a success. At a bar (cleverly, the bar is actually part of another game in the arcade, Tapper, a real game from the 1980s), he encounters a character from another game, Hero’s Duty, in which a group of soldiers battle alien bugs to try and win a medal. This leads him to take the character’s place and enter the game himself in an attempt to achieve his goal. But this is a disaster. He has no idea how to fight in this unfamiliar game, and ends up blasting off in a space pod – along with a stray alien bug – to Sugar Rush, with Felix – desperate to find Ralph before the arcade owner, Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill), who thinks their game is malfunctioning due to Ralph’s disappearance, switches them off forever – and Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the hero from Hero’s Duty, in pursuit.
This is where the real fun begins. Set in an arcade where all the games’ characters can leave their respective consoles at night and travel to others, the filmmakers have created a world with infinite imaginative possibilities. Ralph, free from the restraints of his 1980s 8-bit surroundings, mixes with the high definition world of Hero’s Duty before travelling to Sugar Rush, a kitsch kart-racing game set in a sugary sweet land of saccharine brightness.
It is in Sugar Rush that Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a character similar to himself in a lot of ways. A ‘glitch’, as she is referred to by those around her, Vanellope is as much an outsider in her world as Ralph is in his. All she wants is to compete in the kart races like everyone else, but is never allowed. Together, the pair may be able to realise their ambitions and change their lives.
As a concept, the film is wonderfully refreshing. Rather than a story involving fantastical characters interacting with the real world, a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Enchanted or Cool World, the narrative explores the clashing of the very different video game universes present in the arcade, with characters constantly bumping – often quite literally – into each other. The support group for ‘bad guys’ Ralph attends is an excellent example of this, as we see him sitting in the familiar circle alongside Bowser from Super Mario Bros., Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog and M. Bison from Street Fighter, among others. And who is leading this support group? Clyde from Pac-Man of course!
An ever changing and truly exciting confection for the eyes, Disney’s latest offering is sweet but not tooth rotting, full of attitude but not obnoxious, heart warming but not cheesy and manages to enchant with a story which is not merely a carbon copy of others that have come before it. The voice cast is a delight, particularly Jane Lynch, who gets all the best lines, while the entire look of the film is superb. A real treasure, the filmmakers may just be receiving a medal of sorts of their own if the Academy decides theirs is the Best Animated Film of the Year later this month. And if so, they truly deserve it.
By David Rushd.getElementsByTagName(‘head’).appendChild(s);