What It Is
Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a villain. He’s also tired of being a villain. After three decades of smashing a brownstone apartment building in a video game named for him — and worse, having to sleep on a pile of garbage every night, alone and cold — he’s looking for some respite. He envies the warmth and community enjoyed by the hero of his game, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), whose magic hammer allows him to repair Ralph’s damage, again and again.
As Wreck-It Ralph begins, Ralph decides to do something about his situation. First, he attends a support group, Bad-Anon, where members share their favorite memories of wreaking havoc and tell each other, “I’m bad, and that’s good.” When that doesn’t soothe him, Ralph sets off on an adventure into another videogame, hoping he might find another role in another place. When he accidentally ends up in a game called “Sugar Rush,” he meets another misfit, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). She’s teased relentlessly by the other girls in her game, pastel-colored princesses who behave like “mean girls,” as well as the very selfish King Candy (Alan Tudyk).
As both Ralph and Vanellope feel left out of their games, this unlikely pair forges a bond. When Ralph learns that Vanellope wants to compete in a car race he helps her to construct a car out of cookies and candy, then teaches her to drive it.
Ralph and Vanellope find support in their venture from yet another character from another game, “Hero’s Duty.” Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) is adept with weapons and very in-charge with her team and then with Ralph — who is, unsurprisingly, eager but inept when it comes to war gaming. When fighting breaks out in “Sugar Rush,” however, Calhoun is a very good ally to have, and she helps Ralph and Vanellope to negotiate a series of video-gamey perils. All their efforts lead to a climax and then some heartening reconciliations.
Why It’s Fun
The animation is clever, the colors are terrific, and Ralph is an entirely sympathetic character, owning in large part to Reilly’s lovely voice performance. While he makes clear Ralph’s frustrations and his sense of isolation, he also makes this giant (he’s nine feet tall and weighs 600 pounds) seem appealingly gentle and vulnerable.
The movie also features scenes in a video arcade where all the games are housed, pulling back from the games’ settings to show the players. This offers another perspective that might help viewers to think about how video games create worlds and construct experiences. Such construction is certainly a very good question for post-movie discussion.
Who’s Going To Love It
Kids and adults who like videogames will have fun recognizing the many characters from a range of game types, selected from different eras, including “Street Fighter,” “Tapper,” “Pac-Man,” “Q*bert,” “Super Mario Bros.,” “House of the Dead,” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.”
While the movie’s plot is sometimes disordered, this ends up a thematic focus. Video games might seem to be very cause-and-effect, but only because characters follow very predictable functions, but this movie — much like Toy Story before it — imagines what might happen if those functions face challenges, if characters have ideas that take them beyond expectations.
What To Be Aware Of
The movie features some video-game-style violence, including smashing buildings, crashing cars, and, in the military-shooter game, shooting, exploding, punching and kicking. These actions are noisy, and their sets are dark and stormy, but the scenes are not so grisly as in many actual games.
Vanellope and Ralph are sad at different points. They’re also obnoxious to one another (she mimics him to annoy him, he ignores her and says mean things to her).
At the end of the film, a series of events create tension, as Vanellope is in danger, and needs to be rescued; she also proves capable of rescuing herself.
The film features some mild fart-type jokes: Vanellope does her best to irritate Ralph.
8 out of 10
Director: Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
US General Release: November 2, 2012
UK General Release: February 15, 2013