With "Wreck-It Ralph, " Disney tries its best to capture the Pixar magic and while "Ralph" is no "Toy Story," it doesn’t scrimp on the entertainment value. It’s like a really good hamburger. Very satisfying, yet Pixar is still filet mignon.
"Wreck-It Ralph" could easily be called "Video Game Story." Why? So glad you asked. In Pixar’s "Toy Story," toys come to life when humans aren’t around. In Walt Disney’s "Wreck-It Ralph," video game characters come to life when humans aren’t around.
Coincidence? Disney, a studio which once ruled children’s entertainment, has since been usurped by Pixar, a studio that can do no wrong. So if you can’t beat 'em, buy 'em. Disney now owns Pixar. Interestingly, the executive producer of "Wreck-It Ralph" is John Lasseter, who just happened to be the director of "Toy Story."
Here, Disney tries its best to capture the Pixar magic, and while "Ralph" is no "Toy Story," it doesn’t scrimp on the entertainment value. It’s like a really good hamburger. Very satisfying, yet Pixar is still filet mignon.
"Wreck-It Ralph" will certainly be a treat for arcade veterans, as the film pays homage to video games and characters of yesteryear. Children, meanwhile, should warm up to Wreck-It Ralph (voice John C. Reilly), the bad guy in the video game Fix-It Felix Jr. Ralph is a huge man with massive forearms that make Popeye’s look like chicken wings. As his name implies, Ralph is one-man wrecking crew, and what kid doesn’t like wrecking stuff? OK, maybe it’s a boy thing.
Anyway, Ralph is tired of being the bad guy. He wants to be liked and treated with respect like the game’s hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. (voice of Jack McBrayer). To change his image, Ralph leaves his game and enters another one, Hero’s Duty.
There, he runs afoul of its no-nonsense leader, Sgt. Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch). He gets a hero's medal, but ends up crash-landing a jet in another game, Sugar Rush, and unwittingly introduces a deadly cy-bug into the candy-coated environment.
In Sugar Rush, Ralph also meets Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman), a feisty glitch, so named because of faulty computer imaging, who absconds with Ralph’s medal to use to enter a go-cart race. The two don’t get along at first yet these outcasts — glitches are treated like pariahs — decide to work together. If Vanellope wins the race, Ralph will get his medal back. Standing in their way is King Candy (voice of Alan Tudyk sounding like a cross between Charles Nelson Reilly and Ed Wynn), Sugar Rush’s Mad Hatter honcho who refuses to let glitches race.
Meanwhile, Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sgt. Calhoun have arrived in Sugar Rush, too. Felix wants to get Ralph back to his game or else its plug will be pulled while Calhoun wants to destroy the cy-bug before it unleashes its viral wrath.
So many plots and subplots. Characters even get back stories. Heady stuff for a kids’ cartoon, yet there’s still plenty of manic action and juvenile jokes for the young ones to enjoy. For example, Vanellope, who looks like a doe-eyed cutie pie, revels in sassy insults and bathroom humor. Case in point, the "duty" in Hero’s Duty becomes "doody" in her naughty mind. Anyone familiar with Silverman’s work knows that isn’t a stretch. However, I pity the parents who see their child Googling Silverman and viewing her act on YouTube. It’s a tad raunchy.
Page 2 of 2 - One of the reasons that "Wreck-It Ralph" is such a pleasure is the vocal work is so spot on. No one does sad-sack, put-upon characters like Reilly while Lynch has perfected a persona that can kill with a stare. Here, she channels her inner Marine drill sergeant.
Adults, meanwhile, can get their kicks from watching Ralph partake in a Bad-Anon meeting where video game villains discuss their issues, taking it "one game at a time."
Rich Moore, making his feature film directorial debut here, manages to keep all the film’s strands intact while maintaining its frenetic pace. His background with "The Simpsons" shows in his penchant for edgier humor.
The script by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee supports Moore’s madcap vision yet has no trouble including groan-inducing puns. After a sugary splattering, King Candy quips, "He just glazed me." And who better to pursue Ralph in a junk food fairyland than Devil Dogs?
The writers even add romance, yet it's the unlikely friendship of Ralph and Vanellope that gives the film its heart. Sure, the movie falls back on tried-and-true Disney formula, but this time the formula works. Which is more than I can say for the 3D factor. Yet again, this over-used technology adds absolutely nothing to this film except a higher ticket price. The computer-generated animation is fine as is.
"Wreck-It Ralph" should nevertheless be an audience hit and not just for children and gamers. You don’t have to know Super Mario from Mario Lanza to appreciate a movie that operates with a computer chip on its shoulder.
The movie is preceded by a sweet black-and-white short called "Paperman."
"Wreck-It Ralph" opens Friday, Nov. 2.
"Wreck-It Ralph" (B)