“Wreck-It Ralph” is a sort of 8-bit “Toy Story,” populated by characters from classic video games, and is sure to warm the hearts of parents who spent too much time with the Nintendo as a child.
Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in a “Rampage” type video game called Fix-It-Felix. He smashes buildings, only to have a handyman with a magic hammer come along and fix it. At the end of the day, Felix is loved and adored by the building residents and attends parties with pie, while Ralph must go home to the city dump to make an uncomfortable bed of bricks.
When the arcade closes for the night, all the video game characters head to Game Central Station. There, you’re just as likely to see an unemployed Qbert begging for money, or the fighters from Double Dragon heading over to Tapper for a drink.
“Wreck-It Ralph” is helped immeasurably by the voice talents of John C. Reilly. He sounds world-weary and put-upon reading a menu. He attends a support group for other video game villains, but longs to be a good guy for once.
So Ralph decides to game-jump in search of a medal to earn the respect of his fellow characters. He winds up in a first person shooter called Hero’s Duty. That’s where he wins a medal, and ends up in another game which is a sort of cross between Candy-land and Mario Kart. There he encounters a young girl named Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman. She’s got enthusiasm to spare, but has been excluded from the racing lineup because of her “glitches.”
But its still full of small pleasures, from the charming animation which is only incrementally updated from the NES, to the sly references which parents may have to explain to their children later. Wreck-It Ralph is a brilliant concept that winds up being just a better-than-average kids movie, in part because it shoehorns Ralph into another larger plot involving the fate of the video game world and a big race to the finish.
Wreck-It Ralph is charming enough on his own. He doesn’t need to save the world to make audiences like him, he was doing just fine just by being himself.