‘Wreck-It Ralph’ a smashing good time for all ages


“Wreck-It Ralph” features cameos from throughout video game history, including Sonic and Pac-Man ghosts. Photo via impawards.com

“Wreck-It Ralph” features cameos from throughout video game history, including Sonic and Pac-Man ghosts. Photo via impawards.com

I am sure none of the children who go to “Wreck-It Ralph” know anything about old-school arcades. The references to pixels, codes and the shots of time passing in the game room must have been lost on a generation who play “Wii Bowling” and “Guitar Hero” rather than Pac-Man and pinball.

But for parents who remember their time as video game geeks and bored pre-teens lurking in arcades, it is full of nostalgia.

The movie begins in “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” a game where the squeakily clean construction worker Felix, voiced by “30 Rock’s” ever-earnest Jack McBrayer, uses his magic fixing hammer to repair damage from the charmingly oafish title character, voiced by John C. Reilly.

The whole arcade, however, is thrown into a tizzy when Ralph grows tired of his outcast status. He decides to buck the arcade-land system to try to grasp for heroics rather than remain a bad guy, banished to his game’s garbage dump.

In his search for glory, Ralph meddles in other games, finding himself in a violent first person shooter and eventually ending up in a sweets-themed racing game reminiscent of Candy Land. There he meets a wise-cracking little “glitch” named Vanellope von Shweetz, voiced by Sarah Silverman.

The little girl acts like the result of Silverman’s usual sweet-voiced but filthy comedy act brought down to the level of potty humor. She makes several jokes about “duty” that may have little kids going ballistic with laughter, but adults won’t likely be as amused.

The movie is full of clever details playing on the video game theme. Some characters move with jerky pops, there are pixellated squares woven into the animation, and characters see views of the arcade through their sky.

I saw the 3-D version, and though I usually do not think it is worth the extra money, “Wreck-It Ralph” does use the technology more than most movies today, in which the 3-D seems more like an afterthought. The visuals really pop in the racing scenes, with the extra dimension making the whips around corners and incoming obstacles exciting.

The jumping between games brings a great visual diversity throughout the story, ensuring that at some point most people will find at least one aesthetic to their liking. I never thought I would see a film where one minute you’re being chased by a mutant bug and the next, you are listening to a speech by King Candy.

Audiences get to see the plastic sheen of Ralph’s world, violent monsters, battles, modern-looking soldiers and a bright candy world filled with candy cane trees and pools of chocolate.

But while the film will inevitably be a good choice for families seeking something that can satisfy everyone, “Wreck-It Ralph” is not an instant classic. It is riddled with way too much of a muchness, getting bogged down with plot and too many side characters that add little (with one notable exception: a sardonic sour ball in the candy game whose droll voice is always funny).

With enough plot twists for a Shakespearean comedy of errors, “Wreck-It Ralph” forgets that the best kids movies are the ones that effectively carry a simple story. While Pixar manages to touch audiences with simplicity and character development in “Up” and “Wall-E,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” a non-Pixar Disney movie, spends its time interweaving plots and setting up twists rather then creating a connection to its main characters.

Despite the setbacks, if the goal is to find a film that will provide some amusement for everybody, “Wreck-It Ralph” is still a good choice. It also comes equipped with a standard heart-warming message and some solid laughs.

Fulfilling the ever-present need for a quality family film, Disney’s latest project is sure to be a success in theaters, bringing a love of arcades to a new generation and ensuring that dark rooms that fostered the birth of video games are not completely forgotten.