Reviewer's rating: 3.5/5 stars
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Gaming tribute loses points on plot but visual style earns the medal

Directed by Rich Moore
Screenplay by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee from a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon
Rated PG, 108 minutes
Cinemas everywhere

Disney's Wreck-it Ralph is a video gamers' delight - a CGI animation that gets inside the workings of a video arcade and makes gentle, if rowdy, fun of the games' conventions, characters and aesthetics. And while it's packed with inside jokes,

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Wreck-It Ralph - trailer

The bad-guy character in a classic game who longs to be a hero brings trouble to his entire arcade after game-jumping.

its playfulness means you don't need a joystick licence to enjoy it.

It is produced by Pixar's John Lasseter, who has been creative head of Walt Disney Animation since Disney bought Pixar in 2006. Lasseter has maintained the two production houses as separate entities, starting by having Disney concentrate

on hand-drawn animation while Pixar stuck to CGI.

This changed in 2010, when CGI was used in Disney's Tangled, although it still featured the Disneyfied version of traditional storytelling with music.


Then came Pixar's Brave, which reflected a similar sensibility. Now Wreck-it Ralph restores the balance. Although it's released under Disney's banner, its sensibility is pure Pixar, strongly influenced by Toy Story.

Voiced by John C. Reilly, Ralph, pictured, has spent 30 years as the bad guy in an old-fashioned arcade game named for its star, Fix-It Felix. It operates on a simple premise: Ralph wrecks things and Felix comes along and repairs them. For this, he's rewarded with the best flat in Niceland, the neighbourhood that is home to the game's characters, while Ralph has to make himself comfortable leaning against a tree stump across the street.

After-hours life in Niceland is one long party to which Ralph is not invited. He's endured this for years

with the help of Bad-Anon, the bad guys' therapy group, which meets regularly at Pac-Man's place. Now he's finally had enough. He wants to belong by winning one of the arcade's gold medals

It's a pretty flimsy premise but plot isn't the thing here. The aim is to treat us to a tour of the arcade, starting with the hub of it all, Game Central Station, which has a vast, bustling concourse modelled on Manhattan's Grand Central. From here, the arcade's characters commute to work aboard trains travelling along the power cords that connect to each game.

When Ralph decides to venture out of Niceland in search of a medal-winning deed to perform, he settles on the super-macho world of the combat game Hero's Duty.

Winning the medal is easy. Holding on to it turns out to be a lot more difficult.

Although short on narrative drive, the script is clever enough to make our arcade tour more than just a sightseeing trip. A few political sidelights are thrown in as well. But it's style that really keeps the action moving in a film rich in visual puns. There are nods to Japanese anime, Gaudi's architecture and Alice in Wonderland, and while the overall result is pretty chaotic, you can have a lot of fun taking it all apart.

Twitter: @SandraHFilm