Video games based on films allow audiences to put themselves in the thick of the action from their favourite Hollywood blockbusters and animated features. It’s a marriage made in merchandising heaven.
So it’s somewhat surprising that films based on video games malfunction so badly.
Cinematic versions of ‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Super Mario Bros’ were disastrous and only the long-running ‘Resident Evil’ series seems to have sustained appeal with fan boys and girls.
Rich Moore’s feel-great computer animation is a glorious exception to the rule, using a fictitious coin-operated arcade game as a backdrop to one pixellated character’s uplifting journey of self-discovery.
Blessed with a smart script and energetic vocal performances, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is 108 minutes of pure, unadulterated joy.
Candy-coloured visuals burst with colour and detail, and the 3D version makes excellent use of the eye-popping format in stomach-churning action sequences that careen up and down undulating race tracks at dizzying speed.
‘Wreck-It Ralph’ (voiced John C Reilly) is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix Jr, which has stood the test of time in an arcade.
However, after years of destruction, Ralph yearns to be the hero for once.
Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the other residents of Ralph’s computerised world are unsympathetic and shun him.
So with a heavy heart, Ralph breaks protocol to seek adventure in a futuristic first-person shooting game called ‘Hero’s Duty’, serving under the command of ballsy space trooper Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch).
But Ralph escapes the game and unwittingly transports an alien Cy-Bug from ‘Hero’s Duty’ into the neighbouring ‘Sugar Rush’ racing game.
While the creature lays eggs and prepares to overrun the realm of King Candy (Alan Tudyk) and his subjects, Ralph befriends diminutive misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who is ostracised by the other racers because she has a glitch in her coding which causes her to flicker.
Ralph makes a shocking discovery about Vanellope’s past and he realises that to cure her, he must help the sassy tyke beat her rivals to the chequered flag in her modified go-kart.
‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is a smashing treat.
Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee’s script balances uproarious laugh with tears without shamelessly manipulating our emotions.
Kids will squeal with glee at the turbo-charged action sequences; grown men, meanwhile, will shed silent tears into their popcorn.
Before the main feature, we’re treated to John Kahrs’s stunning black-and-white short, ‘Paperman’, which has been deservedly nominated for an Oscar later this month.
Blending hand-drawn and computer animation, this perfectly formed gem chronicles a Brief Encounter-style love affair in 1940s New York using a paper aeroplane as the simple yet ingenious dramatic device to bring two passing strangers together.
In seven unforgettable minutes, Kahrs takes us on a rollercoaster of emotion that leaves us unabashedly grinning from ear to ear.
Star Rating: 4½