‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ smashingly fun
When it comes to video games, I’ve been known to dabble.
As a kid, visiting the mall arcade was a digital treat, a welcome departure from the Nintendo Entertainment System, what with the better graphics and free sesame chicken samples from the food court.
After burning my opponent to a crisp in “Mortal Kombat,” never did I imagine what my favorite video game characters would do in their down time.
Leave it to the Imagineering writers of Disney.
In the new animated comedy, “Wreck-It-Ralph,” audiences are treated to a fresh take on an increasingly popular pastime – a story about video games told from the games’ perspective.
Beautifully animated and cleverly written, “Wreck-It-Ralph” succeeds on multiple levels (including the sought-after bonus level) by delivering a smashing good time for viewers young and old(er).
Sharply directed and cleverly co-written by Rich Moore (TV’s “Futurama”), “Wreck-It-Ralph” boasts a high score of humor, action and video game references (of today and yesteryear), along with a surprisingly heartfelt message, to keep viewers of all ages at the theoretical joystick.
As the story goes, when an arcade closes for the night, the video game characters clock out, including Wreck-It-Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”), the villain in an early-1980s video game, “Fix-It Felix Jr.” Every day, he climbs an apartment building and proceeds to wreck it, only to have his efforts thwarted by building super Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”).
The problem is that Ralph is tired of being the bad guy. Shunned by his “Fix-It Felix Jr.” coworkers, he retreats every night to his home – a pile of rubble – and watches them all have a grand time in their building. Meaning no harm, Ralph literally crashes their party, for which he’s shunned yet again, and thus decides to become a hero on his own terms – despite the warnings of his bad guy support group.
Determined to win in another game as its hero, he leaves “Fix-It Felix” to disastrous results. When the arcade reopens, one of the gamers notices “Felix” has no villain, which the arcade owner sees as a glitch and deems the game as “Out of Order.”
If it’s not working properly by the next day, it could well be unplugged, leaving all of “Fix-It Felix’s” characters homeless and out of work – like poor Q*bert and his friends, who’ve resigned to living in the arcade’s surge protector.
Meanwhile, Ralph sneaks into the modern, action-packed first-person shooter, “Hero’s Duty,” where he encounters tough-as-nails military commander Col. Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch, “Best in Show”), before accidentally being propelled into “Sugar Rush,” a cartoonish, candy-themed racing game.
There, he encounters young Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman, TV’s “The Sarah Silverman Program.”), a wisecracking but adorable “glitch,” who aspires to race but is forbidden to do so by King Candy (hilariously voiced by Alan Tudyk, “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”), supposedly for fear of putting “Sugar Rush” on the out-of-order list.
But the King has something that Ralph and Vanellope both want, and in helping Vanellope achieve her dream, Ralph begins to learn the truth about how he should help himself.
Per Disney tradition, the film’s message is obvious, but director Moore delivers it stylishly and in keeping with “Wreck-It-Ralph’s” colorfully clever atmosphere. As with Moore’s work on the ever-brilliant “Futurama,” he spares no expense when it comes to detail, and hilarious asides and smartly placed references abound. In that sense, “Wreck-It-Ralph” would be worth watching again just to see what you missed the first time, particularly at home with a handy pause button.
And there’s plenty for video gamers of all generations, with guest appearances from stalwarts like Pac-Man, Bowser of “Super Mario Brothers” fame, and Ken and Ryu from “Street Fighter 2,” who, after their battle royale, head to the neighborhood bar for a few brews. For those of the NES generation, even the classic “Contra” password makes an appearance.
Put simply, “Wreck-It-Ralph” works – and without having to blow incessantly into a game cartridge.
“Wreck-It-Ralph,” rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.