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WRECK-IT RALPH

★★★★

AN 8-BIT BLAST FROM THE PAST

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By Daniel Lammin
21st April 2013
There is something undeniably charming about 'Wreck-It Ralph'. Before its release, it was anticipated as the film to put Disney well and truly back on the map after a decade of disappointing and under-performing efforts. Months later, it's now clear that 'Ralph' was never going to do that. It isn't the runaway classic we thought it would be. Regardless of its shortcomings, though, it certainly suggests that Disney is finally getting back on its feet. It might not be entirely successful, but it's pretty darn close.

The film hits the ground running with a sublime first act, following its total character (John C. Reilly), the misunderstood bad guy with a penchant for destruction from the game Fix-It Felix, on a mission to change his destiny and prove he is more than a heavy to be feared. The video game puns and gags are thick and fast, and all help to enrich the film's video arcade world. Seeing familiar faces from famous and classic games is a real treat, each a well-crafted character in their own right. Ralph's game itself is an absolute delight, a translation from an 8-bit world into a vivid reality. The scenario itself is just as exciting - a simple hero journey scenario with a sympathetic leading man, along with the goofy charm of Felix himself (Jack McBrayer) and tough-as-nails Major Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from an ultra-modern Halo ripoff.

When Ralph finds himself in the racing platform Sugar Rush, however, the film begins to loose that energy and magic. The video game language runs out of steam, being replaced with sugar and candy puns that, while still charming, seem very out of place - the kind of ground we've already tread countless times before in many other films. After the freneticism of moving from game to game, to be stuck in a single game for the rest of the film begins to feel dull. The characters within Sugar Rush are also less intriguing, especially King Candy (Alan Tudyk), who emerges as the dull and predictable villain, borrowing too much from the 1950s Disney version of the Mad Hatter. Ralph finds himself paired up with Venellope von Schweet (Sarah Silverman), a tiny system glitch who dreams of becoming a racer. Their relationship saves the second act of the film, and helps to bolster it towards a rousing finale, where the game collides with another and we return to playing with video game tropes. It doesn't wipe away the feeling that these are two different films simply mashed together, but it leaves a better memory of the film that the second act may have left.

SWITCH: WRECK-IT RALPH RED CARPET

If it isn't a return to form or an instant classic for Disney, 'Wreck-It Ralph' is certainly an indication that such a thing may be on the way. There is enough daring and old Disney cheek to make it stand out, and the unfortunate flaws start to matter less on repeat viewing. It has buckets of charm, a wicked sense of humour and taps into the secret that Pixar had discovered years ago - that nostalgia goes a long way to making a film more accessible, more memorable and more timeless. 'Wreck-It Ralph' might not be the game-changer we thought it would be, but it is certainly a worthy addition to the Disney canon. They may finally be emerging from under Pixar's shadow.

PICTURE & SOUND
If 'Ralph' looked anything less than perfect, I would be very disappointed. Thankfully, perfect is exactly what we get. Blu-Ray is a blast for films like this, and the 1080p 2.35:1 transfer sparkles with clarity and explodes with colour. Ralph moves through many distinct worlds in his journey, and Disney have ensured that every detail is preserved and presented as clearly as possible. The same can be said for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Sound goes a long way in selling the video game quality of the film, and the track pops with every beep and squeak the classic games produced. The sound design on 'Ralph' is one of its greatest achievements, and it's all here to enjoy. The film is also available in Blu-ray 3D, which adds another level of immersion to the already impressive visual environments.

It has buckets of charm and a wicked sense of humour.

SPECIAL FEATURES
There might not be much on offer here, but what we do get is surprisingly top-notch. A short but packed making-of featurette covers the early development of the film and the intricate design of its four main worlds. Hearing the filmmakers discuss them helps to clarify a lot of the decisions. There are also an excellent selection of deleted scenes, reflecting an earlier and slightly different version of the film. Commentary from the director Rich Moore sets much needed context. There are also a collection of themed game advertisements for the various games in the film.

The real standout of the set, though, is the acclaimed short 'Paperman', which recently won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. It's a minor marvel, as impressive as any from Pixar, and a hint at the more daring work the studio is doing behind the scenes. It's almost worth getting the disc for this alone.

A tremendous amount of care has gone into crafting this set, a comforting sign that filmmakers are giving though to how the audience will receive their films after the theatrical release. "I think the Blu-ray release will become the definitive version of the movie", says Moore in the press material for the film, "because there is so much detail in every shot and there is so much to see in every scene. We’ve packed the movie full of characters and fine details because we want it to be that kind of movie where people want to freeze the frame and check out everything going on in every shot. We want the audience to be able to enjoy ever detail that’s in there."

If that isn't a recommendation for this release, I don't know what is.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 24/04/2013
RUN TIME: 1h 41m
CAST: John C. Reilly - Wreck-it Ralph
Sarah Silverman - Vanellope Von Schweetz
Jack McBrayer - Fix-it Felix
Jane Lynch - Sergeant Calhoun
DIRECTOR: Rich Moore
WRITERS: Jennifer Lee
Phil Johnston
PRODUCER: Clark Spencer
SCORE: Henry Jackman
www.disney.com/wreckitralph
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