In an action-packed tribute to classic video games, Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” opened in 2-D and 3-D theaters Nov. 2.
The animated feature gives us a “Toy Story”-esque glimpse into the world of a video game arcade after closing time. It is the story of Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), the shunned “bad guy” of the popular arcade game “Fix-It Felix Jr.” After not being invited to his own game’s 30th anniversary party, Ralph decides to prove to his game’s inhabitants that he is not so bad after all and leaves “Fix-It Felix Jr.” in search of a medal of honor.
He travels to “Hero’s Duty,” a first-person shooter game led by the no-nonsense Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Cheating his way to the top, Ralph wins his medal and inadvertently leaves the game in an escape pod, taking an evil Cy-Bug with him.
Upon landing in “Sugar Rush,” a candy-themed racing game that resembles a mix of “Candy Land” and “Mario Kart,” Ralph’s medal is stolen by the devilish Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who uses it to enter a race held by King Candy (Alan Tudyk). Ralph learns that his medal will be returned to him only if Vanellope wins the race, consequently resetting the game.
Meanwhile, Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Sgt. Calhoun have teamed up to find Ralph and the Cy-Bug, which has the power to multiply and eat through the gaming universe. They arrive in “Sugar Rush” and quickly discover that the Cy-Bug has laid hundreds of eggs. It is now up to Ralph to help Vanellope win the race and prevent the Cy-Bug apocalypse.
Easily the most enjoyable part of this film is its video game theme. It is fascinating to see characters from so many real games (“Pac-Man,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Dance Dance Revolution” and “Super Mario Bros.,” to name a few) come to life in a new setting and interact with one another. I was a big fan of the film’s play on “Game Central Station,” where characters from all over the arcade can be seen traveling from their respective games to the station via electric currents and going about their daily business. Sweet and simple things like this make the film fun, smart and enjoyable for audiences of all ages.
The voice cast is another of the film’s highlights. Reilly is wonderful as our down-on-his-luck hero and really makes us root for Ralph despite his “bad-guy” image. Silverman’s squeaky soprano is the perfect blend of cute and annoying for little Vanellope, who packs a punch despite her small size. McBrayer’s performance as Felix is nice but rather unremarkable, while Lynch’s Sgt. Calhoun is nothing short of kick-ass. Rounding out the cast, Tudyk nearly steals the show as King Candy, whose voice alone is enough to pull laughs from the audience even when he isn’t cracking jokes.
Other than a rather cheesy romantic subplot between Felix and Sgt. Calhoun, the film is very solid and delivers its message with just the right amount of fun.
While the filmmakers certainly played upon some creative aspects of the video game theme, the film really only focuses on the three arcade games that Ralph travels to: “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” “Hero’s Duty” and “Sugar Rush.” This aspect could have been exploited so much more by simply giving us a glimpse of a few more games.
That being said, director Rich Moore creates a beautiful gaming universe full of whimsical settings and vibrant colors that reflect the film’s kid-friendly theme. The blend of classic, jerky video game graphics and modern animation was particularly enjoyable and added a level of nostalgia and realism to the film.
“Wreck-It Ralph,” vaguely reminiscent of the great animated classics of the ’90s, is a definite hit for Disney. Though it may not be destined to become a classic itself, it remains a great film that appeals to both kids and their parents, and it is sure to continue its success at the box office. It’s cute, it’s funny, and it’s one of this holiday season’s sure crowd pleasers.