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Animation

Wreck-It Ralph is rarely laugh out loud funny but it’s often delightful and there are lots of clever videogame references and jokes to spot.

This is probably the best computer-animated film I’ve seen since The Incredibles and it’s certainly better than the over-rated Toy Story 3 and Up.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) or to give him his full title Wreck-It Ralph is the villain in an old arcade game (think of the ape from Donkey Kong). Only he’s tired of being the bad guy,. No one in his game likes him and when the game shuts off, he sleeps alone by a tree stump in an old town dump.

What’s clever about this film is that all the characters live lives outside their games. From the outside you only see the view through the screen, but really there is a lot more to their world than that. They are even able (via the electricity wires) to enter the other games in the arcade. Handy for Ralph since he attends ‘Bad-Guys Anonymous’ meetings run by one of the ghosts from Pacman, and which is also attended by such famous villains as Bowser, Zangief, and generic zombie.

Ralph soon sets off on a quest to become a hero, because with a hero’s medal around his neck, everyone will like him? Right? His quest takes him to the latest Hero’s Duty game (a great parody of Call of Duty and all those games that feature muscular bald space marine type heroes). It’s here where we meet one of the best characters, the very intense and aggressive Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). We are told the reason for this intensity is that she has the the most tragic back-stories ever: The one day she didn’t do a perimeter check, her wedding day, her husband- to-be was killed and eaten by aliens.

Then it’s on to Sugar Rush. A cynical karting game possibly inspired by the Candy Crush franchise (I can’t say for sure since I’ve never played it but it’s fair to say most karting games are cynical cash-ins). Here Ralph meets a little girl, Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) who is also a glitch. This part of the film is both it’s greatest strength and weakness. Ralph forms a tempestuous but touching friendship with her (she is also an outsider within her game on account of her being a glitch). However a large part of the story is told here and the world of Sugar Rush is very bland, not just on the account of it being a saccharine-sweet karting game but also because it’s generally a very empty place when it’s not race day.

The message behind the film is a familiar but admirable one – that it’s ok to be yourself. After a bumpy and difficult journey getting there, both Ralph and Vanellope find this out for themselves. There’s another message to be learned too, this time for video game developers: what goes on outside the games in the arcade is a lot more magical and enchanting than than the generic action that we often see happening behind their screens. So something else to think about there too. Not perfect but a very good film. 7/10

The film follows The Pirate Captain’s (on the right here and voiced by Hugh Grant) quest to win the coveted “Pirate of The Year” Award.

Arrr….Initially I was very impressed by this film. The stop-motion clay animation is superb and very smooth. It’s so smooth in fact that it ironically makes you wonder if they could have eased the workload somewhat and used computer graphics to create the same effect.

This is different from many of the other animated films made by giants such as Pixar and Disney in that it doesn’t show you a joke and then pause as a cue for you to laugh – the funny things are just there, and you can laugh if you want but the film will carry on regardless. In other words the humour is very British, very understated and also very refreshing.

Unfortunately I didn’t feel the story or character development were good enough for a full length film. The character of The Pirate Captain himself is well developed but all of the other characters are pretty much ciphers – they are there just there to make you laugh, there’s no depth to them. As a result there’s little emotional involvement, and when the film does try tugging at your heart strings it fails.

Well made and funny at times, delightful in fact. but there’s just not enough depth for a full-length film. 5/10

The view that 90% of the planet’s inhabitants see shortly before their death.

I was apprehensive about watching this since it’s an animation and I assumed it would be aimed at children, but actually it’s not bad at all. After a slightly dodgy opening where Hulk is exiled from Earth by some random superheroes, he finds himself on an alien planet. Here he is captured by the hostile inhabitants, and is forced to fight for his freedom alongside some other prisoners.

Hulk must take part in a series of arena battles and really this is a thinly disguised version of Gladiator, with Hulk taking the Russell Crowe role. That makes it sound terrible, but actually it’s made very enjoyable just by Hulk’s sheer rage. When you think he can’t get any more angry – he does – swelling in size and jumping inside a huge alien creature and ripping it apart from the inside.

There is an overarching plot which means Hulk and his ‘friends’ (Hulk doesn’t have friends) must ultimately help to overthrow the evil dictator (again more strains of Gladiator), but this is welcome because it means the film isn’t just about fighting. It also gives you a chance to get to know the personalities of some of the other characters, which adds some depth where Hulk’s surly personality cannot.

I was surprised I enjoyed this and I want to seek out more animations like this – although I doubt they will be as good. 7/10

Ken shows that his physique isn’t just down to plastic-moulding

A sequel and a whole lot of other formulaic CGI films have dulled my appetite for films like this. Having said that Toy Story still has a lot of charm. After a slightly dull opening the film gets going when the toys find themselves sent as donations to Sunnycare Daycare. Ruled over by Lotso Bear,  initially it seems paradisiacal but things aren’t what they seem and the toys set out to escape and find their way back to their owner Andy.  However even if they get back, will he want them? Lotso is particularly sinister at times, and his henchman Big Baby can be terrifying, but it’s Ken (as in Barbie and Ken)  who is the stand-out character. He is portrayed as extremely metrosexual (read borderline gay), and provides most of the genuine laughs here. In classic Toy Story-style this film tries a number of tricks to get its emotional hooks into you, but for me it never really succeeded. Occasionally great, sometimes fun but it can also be overly manic, or even worse a bit dull at times. 6/10 (add a point if you are under 16)