Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

(On Cable TV, September 2012) Now that 1980s kids have not only climbed the ladders of pop-culture production, but also form a substantial part of the paying audience, it’s no surprise that eighties nostalgia should pop up everywhere.  (It’ll get worse; we’re within ten years of a nineties revival.)  Given that video games were The New Thing for eighties kids, it’s no surprise that something like Wreck-It Ralph should make it to the big screen: An animated film exploiting videogame history seems like a natural fit, perfectly adapted to the kind of stories in the Pixar/Disney mold.  Clearly, Walt Disney Animation Studios have learned a lot from stable-mates Pixar (and creative director John Lasseter) because Wreck-It Ralph is as good as most of the Pixar films at exploiting a high-concept premise and setting a solid narrative within strange environments: As eight-bit villain Ralph sets out to become a hero in other newer games, we get a look at the inner life of videogame characters, plenty of cameos from thirty+ years of gaming and a rather solid story as well.  The film flows easily, and while it spends a bit too much time in Sugar Rush, there’s plenty to see and laugh about every few moments.  The visuals are spectacular, but Wreck-It Ralph never forgets that it needs a story and compelling characters.  Even non-gamers should be charmed by the film even as they miss many of the big and small in-jokes that pepper its running time.  As far as corporate exercises in nostalgia are concerned, this is actually pretty good.  It makes a powerful argument, alongside Bolt, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Winnie the Pooh, about Walt Disney Animation Studio’s surging relevance at a time where more and more animation companies are vying for attention.

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