Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

WRECK-IT RALPHAppearing like the video game version of Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph is an entertaining Disney animation that should satisfy viewers of all ages.

Ralph is the bad guy in the video game Fix-It Felix. He longs to be a hero, however, and decides to try to achieve this aim by trying out other games in the arcade. Jumping from game to game, Ralph unwittingly unleashes havoc in the form of a deadly enemy…

The premise of Wreck-It Ralph is a great idea for a film. It is not unlike Toy Story in its focusing on a world should not exist. It is the premise of what goes on with the characters after a game has been shut down which is a fantastic hook, much like Toy Story‘s characters coming to life when they are not being played with.

The narrative offers more depth than just this initial good idea. Wreck-It Ralph features characters that viewers can warm to. The film does not go down the well-trodden Disney lane of eliciting strong emotions. Nevertheless, the plot is still engaging and the main characters have enough depth for viewers to care about their outcome.

There are several references to video games, as would be expected given the premise. Some of these will require knowledge of actual games, but most are more general than this. It is a shame that characters from real games do not have bigger roles in Wreck-It Ralph, but this is a minor gripe.

The animation is bright, and the various worlds in Wreck-It Ralph are distinctive. The use of 3D also works well in the film. John C. Reilly is an excellent choice for the voice of Ralph, whilst Sarah Silverman is does a decent job voicing Vanellope.

Despite not quite being classic Disney, Wreck-It Ralph is still a lot of fun.

Trailer Round-Up

Trailers this week come in the form of Wreck-It Ralph, Django Unchained and The Great Gatsby. Additionally, I have included a music video from Rock of Ages, just because.

Wreck-It Ralph

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph appears to be Toy Story but for video games. The tropes of that hugely successfully franchise are apparent in the first trailer for Wreck-It Ralph, directed by Rich Moore. The film looks like it will satisfy a family audience, whilst also referencing video games heavily. Wreck-It Ralph is due for release in February 2013.

Django Unchained

The trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Django Unchained, was released this week. Tarantino has jumped from Nazis to slave owners, with Jamie Foxx playing a slave seeking vengeance and searching for his wife. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars in the film, alongside Tarantino-collaborator Christoph Waltz. Django Unchained will be released in the UK on 18 January 2013.

The Great Gatsby

 This trailer has been knocking about for a while, but I thought I would post it to make a Leonardo DiCaprio double bill. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was never going to be traditional. The novel has many avid fans, and if they can take it as a reinterpretation of Fitzgerald’s classic rather than a straightforward adaptation, then it looks like a lot of fun. The Great Gatsby is due for release in 3D on 26th December 2012.

Rock of Ages

The film version of musical Rock of Ages is out on 13th June 2012. I am seeing it today, and I cannot wait. To get everyone in the mood for the film (well me at least), I thought I would post a music video from Rock of Ages, a cover of the Journey classic ‘Any Way You Want It’. Enjoy!

Film Review: The Muppets

The Muppets is a wonderfully enjoyable movie that is unlikely to have many detractors. The film is immensely entertaining for those who remember the Muppets the first time round, as well as for younger viewers.

Walter is the world’s biggest Muppets fan. When his brother Gary takes girlfriend Mary on a trip to Los Angeles, Walter is thrilled at the chance to tag along at visit the Muppet Studios. When he hears that the studio is about to be knocked down by an oil tycoon, it is down to Walter to inform his heroes…

The main reason that The Muppets works so successfully is down to its narrative. It would have been easy for Disney to push out a movie based on these much-loved characters, with little concern regarding the story. Thankfully, The Muppets is well written, with a story that should satisfy all ages. While the premise is quite basic, the story develops with wit and charm.

It is humour, after all, that is key to the appeal of the Muppets. The film contains sufficient slapstick to entertain the youngest viewers, while older audience members are likely to be amused by the references and general wit. There are several jokes throughout about the fact that it is a film, even going as far as to reference the plot points.

Along with the comedy, the more serious moments are well executed. Some of the film’s songs are surprisingly emotional, and balance out the humorous musical numbers. As well as the familiar faces, there are several cameos throughout The Muppets. While some of these are very brief (adding little to the overall film), others are fantastically funny. Jason Segel and Amy Adams make great human companions, bringing as much humour as the Muppets themselves.

Although The Muppet Show was first aired in the 1970s, and the characters at the height of their fame in the late 1970s, the film appears to appeal foremostly to an audience who grew up in the 1980s. There are several references to this period, from the fantastic Eighties Robot and the soundtrack to the allusion to 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan. Children of the 1980s should revel in James Bobin’s film.

The Muppets is highly recommended; it is likely to be one of the best feel-good films this year. Viewers should ensure they arrive on time to see the Toy Story short Small Fry beforehand, which is also trememdous fun.

Toy Story Short

There is an added incentive for cinemagoers to arrive in good time to see The Muppets in February 2012: a Toy Story short will be screened ahead of the film. Small Fry is directed by Angus MacLane, and features the voice work of the regular Toy Story crew, headed by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. When Buzz Lightyear is left behind at a fast food restaurant, a kid’s meal toy takes his place. Above is a clip from the short. The Muppets is out in UK cinemas on 10th February 2012.

Film Review: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 is a highly entertaining film for people of all ages. It is also one of the best final films in a trilogy series. Given the marketing campaign and release date, it is bound to be one of the biggest grossers of the year.

As Andy gets ready to leave for college, Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toys are uncertain about their future. A mistake leaves them stuck in a daycare centre, with Woody insistent that they should return home to Andy before he departs…

As ever, the animation from Pixar is superb. The 3D aspect to the film works well as it is unobtrusive. It adds extra life to the animation without being  distracting, indeed you quickly forget you are watching a 3D film.

The usual suspects are back for this third instalment, as well as a number of new characters. These new additions are well-written overall, although understandably some of the minor characters fall into recognisable archetypes. The idea to introduce a Ken doll is inspired; his scenes are some of the funniest in the film.

Unsurprisingly, considering the Pixar back catalogue, the film combines comedy with action, suspense and drama. Numerous critics have discussed the emotional depth to the film, suggesting its ability to tug at the heartstrings. There is a universalness to the themes of maturing and the abandonment of childhood that entails the film will have an emotional effect on most, if not all, of its viewers.

In some ways, it is more of a film for adults, particularly younger ones who grew up with Toy Story as a child, than for a very young audience. Whilst there is enough action, comedy and pace to entertain the youngest viewers, the onus is very much on the notion of the toys being abandoned, rather than the narrative of their quest to find their way back. This is particularly pertinent in the last section of the film.

Toy Story 3 works so well as it errs on the right side of sentimentality. It is emotional without becoming cloying. Interestingly, with the end message of the film, John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Andrew Stanton appear to propagate the idea that growing older necessitates the end of childish pursuits. A message that seems at odds with the Disney ethos. But with the revenue brought in by both ticket sales and the abundance of merchandise, it is unlikely Disney will worry too much about this.