Animated movies have really upped their game in recent years with films like Coraline, Up and Frankenweenie but Wreck-It Ralph is on a whole new level.
Sadly the traditional fairytale isn't selling as well as it used to, so Disney has decided to leave drawn animation in the past and move on to the much more cost effective and marketable CGI animation. But they have proved with Wreck-It Ralph that this doesn't mean the plot or characters have to suffer. The film is about Ralph (John C. Reilly), a retro video-game bad guy who decides he wants to be the hero for once and so leaves his game in search of another where he can win hero status and return as the good guy. Eventually, he ends up in the Mario Kart-inspired game Sugar Rush and makes friends with the adorable Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). The film is a treasure trove of brilliant comic characters. My favourite being Sergeant Calhoun (Glee's Jane Lynch) who is an over the top stereotype of the ridiculously tuff marine sergeants you find in games like Call of Duty. Lynch delivers a series of searing one-liners such as: You wanna go peepee in your big-boy slacks, keep it to yourself! Although Jane and some of the other cast have very recognizable voices which was quite distracting at the start.
A Glitch With The Glitch
I also loved Vanellope! She's funny and boisterous but also sensitive and kind. She's the underdog you can't help but root for and will make a great role model for children. Even though Sarah Silverman does a great job catching all the different tones of the character, Vanellope is a child and I think it would have added to her innocent and believability if she had been voiced by one. It worked so well for characters like Lilo in Lilo And Stitch and Boo in Monsters Inc. I find it slightly irritating when adults play kids roles because their voices aren't naturally high enough and it just sounds a little fake.
But this is a small complaint in an otherwise perfect movie, the design in particular is also brilliant. The different games Ralph visits are all completely unique and yet expertly styled after the games - new and retro - that they emulate. And making the games 'Central Station' inside the multi-plug socket is completely inspired. And the fantastic use of retro video game characters as extras filling the station was something young and old gamers can enjoy. The Sugar Rush sequences are so mouth-wateringly believable they will have you reaching for your candy stash...And surely a lot of childhood dreams - like fighting aliens in a world made of candy - have been expertly realised by the animators.
Thankfully though, this isn't a case of style over substance. The original premise is brilliantly developed throughout the movie and finishes with a final twist ending which is genuinely surprising for once. All the plot's loose ends are woven together at the end finishing off in an action scene that really will have you on the edge of your seat.
Mission: Destroy DreamWorks
One of the things that makes the storytelling in this movie so satisfying is that it is uniquely character led, unlike the sort of films that are being churned out by DreamWorks which follow a tedious formula of cringey one-liners and underdeveloped plots. Disney and Pixar are a lot more daring with their use of innovative styles of animation, complex and multilayered plots and well-developed characters - in comparison DreamWorks seems happy to patronise and shortchange their audience. The question is, when will audiences finally get bored with this form of cheap, plastic entertainment and make it game over for DreamWorks?
The Mini Game
Following in the footsteps of Pixar, Disney released an animated short with this movie called Paper Man - which uses computer animation to emulate drawn animation in an effort to revive Disney's glorious trademark style. While I thought the sweet story and evocative musical score were well worthy of the Oscar it won for Best Animated Short, I didn't feel that the use of computer animation really worked here and I couldn't quite understand why they didn't just decide to draw it. That said it is nice to see them trying new things and being daring.
Wreck-It Ralph was a feast for the eyes and has got me even more excited about the upcoming Disney musical cartoon Frozen based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen – which I'm hoping will be a triumphant return to their fairytale past. In my opinion Disney already has the high score for family entertainment.