Wreck-It Ralph,
directed by Rich Moore
(Disney Pictures, 2012)

On a primal level, every kid who plays or who grew up playing video games wants to be inside one. Life in there seems so much more straightforward than life in the real world. This is exactly what the sweet, goofy charm of Disney's Pixar-ish video game come-to-life movie is based upon. Wreck-It Ralph isn't particularly clever but it's still quite good and works on more than one level as a sort of video game version of Toy Story. What do our favorite playthings get up to while we aren't looking?

When the lights go down in the arcade, life begins in another world. The game characters have their own lives, desires, joys and, in the case of the bad guys, frustrations. A lifetime of always losing to the good guys, of going through the same routine day after day, can grind down even the most hardcore villain. Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), a juggernaut of a foe whose job it is to tear down an apartment building so Fix-it Felix can rebuild it, is more than fed up. After all, it's been 30 years. When's a guy going to get some credit for what he brings to the struggle?

Ralph can't even get a break when he's off duty since, being a bad guy, the other characters treat him with a hands-off policy. Not even weekly "Bad-Anon" meetings give him any cheer. Unable to earn respect on his own, Ralph goes in search of some.

All the characters move about from world to world via the Central Station, aka the surge protector that all the video games in the arcade are plugged into. Traveling from one game to another, a place called Hero's Call, he steals that game's trophy prize in a lame attempt to win the accolades he's never received. Unfortunately, he sets in motion a chain of events that has him accidentally carooming off into yet another game world altogether, Sugar Rush, with several other game characters, including Fix-it Felix himself, in hot pursuit. While in Sugar Rush land, Ralph forms an important bond with a young "glitch" character called Vallenope Van Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who is in her own quest for authenticity and respect.

With its elaborate production design and eye-popping brightness, combined with real-world themes about anti-bullying and self-validation, Wreck-It Ralph is a clever, fun comedy that neatly combines literal truths with well-timed satire. Though it sometimes skews toward kitsch, its sincerity and warmth overcomes any obstacles on its way to a wonderful finish line.

review by
Mary Harvey

12 January 2013

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