Ralph (voiced by John C Reilly), the villain of a popular arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr, is unhappy with being typecast as a baddie with anger issues and hopes to "go straight" as a good guy and maybe make some friends along the way.
What we thought:
The poor kids of today. They must be feeling increasingly neglected whenever Hollywood sets its sights on wowing the world with new bright and beautiful (and usually high concept) animated films because so few of them could well and truly be appreciated by anyone born this century.
Wreck-It Ralph joins Frankenweenie, ParaNorman and even Rise of the Guardians as a darker breed of animated film released within the last year, films whose marketing is eye-catching enough to attract the kids but whose content was produced for a more astute audience.
But then this is Disney and Wreck-It Ralph is just bursting at the seams with colour, energy and that magical wistfulness that will make your heart sing.
Set in the virtual world of games, Wreck-It Ralph will be a special treat for anyone who rushed home after school everyday to sneak off to the nearest corner café or games arcade to happily spend a few 20 cent coins (remember how big those used to be?) on such old school joys such as Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros and Mortal Kombat.
The great thing that Wreck-It Ralph proposes is that characters from these games have a life of their own once the arcade closes at the end of the day and are free to fraternise with other neighbouring games.
In Ralph's case, things in his life are a lot more complicated than the simplicity of his game would suggest. Even though his game requires him to be angry and vicious towards heroic handyman Fix-It Felix (voiced by real-life lookalike Jack McBrayer) and the inhabitants of the apartment block he sets out to destroy during the day (it's all just a day's work for these characters), Ralph's hulking build actually betrays a kindly heart.
In one of the movie's more comical gags, it's revealed that Ralph regularly attends a support group called "Bad-Anon" with other gaming villains like Bison from Street Fighter and Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, and dreams of being included in the social life of his game counterparts at Fix-It Felix, Jr.
When he gets the chance to win their respect by winning a medal at the first-person shooter game Hero's Duty, something his own game doesn't allow for, Ralph risks infecting the game world with a cyber bug and the indefinite shutting down of his own game in the "real world".
His dangerous journey finds him misplaced in the game Sugar Rush, a go-kart racing game where he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who rubs Ralph in all the wrong ways when he steals his hard-won medal in order to race for her life in the game. But when Ralph discovers the young Vanellope has also been ostracized by others in her game, he sets out to help her undo her glitch status.
There's no doubt that a high, and possibly outdated, concept as this was a risky move – so many gaming rights to secure, so many sight gags to fit in and make those who catch them feel smart, and it so easily could have come across as a nod to Pixar's exemplary Toy Story mythology – but Wreck-It Ralph earns its bonus points with its generous storytelling and dazzling animated design. And with The Simpsons and Futurama director Rich Moore at the helm, expect a goofy and edgy take on kid-centric comedy.
With a faultless voice cast that also includes Jane Lynch as a hard-boiled military sergeant from Hero's Duty and the enduringly adorable Mindy Kaling going against type as Vanellope’s bitchy Sugar Rush nemesis, it has the talent onboard to make the most of the script's wacky wit.
Whip-smart and effortlessly cool, even when it gleefully name-checks 8- and 16-bit games in the age of Xbox 360s and high-definition Playstation technology, Wreck-It Ralph serves as a warm-hearted affirmation of a time gone by and zips along with enough pace and foolishness to delight the young and, ahem, the young at heart.