Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) has been demolishing an apartment building constructed where he used to live for 30 years.  Each time he tears it down, Fix-It Felix, Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer) arrives with his handy magic hammer and repairs the damage.  The residents of the apartment building then throw Ralph off the roof into a mud puddle and give Felix a shiny medal.  All of this happens in an arcade video game.  When the arcade is closed, the game characters from all the different cabinets are able to mix, mingle and socialize in Game Central, the electrical system of the arcade.  Ralph is tired of being a bad guy and hated by the other characters in his video game.  When he’s not invited to the 30th anniversary party thrown by the game’s characters, Ralph crashes the party and winds up destroying the cake made for Felix.  With everyone mad at him, Ralph announces he’s going to go out and win a medal even brighter and shinier than Felix’s.  Ralph runs into a character from the game “Hero’s Duty” who talks about the medal awarded to the player who gets to the top of the tower in his game.  Ralph steals the soldier’s armor and inserts himself into this first person shooter where he runs into the hard as nails lead character Sgt. Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch).  While things don’t go well when the game is being played, Ralph takes advantage of a lull between players and grabs the medal from the top of the tower.  Unfortunately, he wakes up one of the cyber bugs who are the enemy in the game and it attacks him.  Ralph and the bug fall into an escape pod that launches at high speed into Game Central and lands in a Japanese racing game called “Sugar Rush.”  There, Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a rambunctious character who has a technical glitch causing her to de-res unpredictably.  Vanellope steals Ralph’s medal to use as an entry fee for the big race that decides which characters are displayed on the game screen for players to use.  Vanellope is as disliked in her game as Ralph is in his.  Game characters Taffyta Muttonfudge (voiced by Mindy Kaling) and King Candy (voiced by Alan Tudyk) don’t want Vanellope to run in the race, but for very different and rather sinister reasons.

 
“Wreck-It Ralph” will make anyone who has played a video game in the last 30 years very happy and possibly nostalgic.  There are dozens of characters from all varieties of games scattered throughout the film.  Some are actually involved in the story while others are merely seen walking in the background.  Either way, it was a great deal of fun trying to find various good guys and bad guys from games of my youth.  That’s just an added bonus to what is already an enjoyable film.
 
“Wreck-It Ralph” is an oft told story of the outcast, the misfit, trying to find his place in the world and prove he is more than just what he’s perceived to be.  The twist is this misfit is in a video game and wants to prove he’s more than just the sum of his programming.  He’s willing to risk permanent death for his quest as a character that dies in a game other than his own doesn’t regenerate.  There’s risk for Ralph and every other character when they step out of their home territory.  Ralph is willing to take that risk to prove he’s not just a bad guy and that he’s worth some respect.  It’s a lesson that the young ones as well as their parents can easily grasp.  It is also presented with a great deal of emotion and tenderness with characters having to make hard decisions and considering what’s best for the other person, not just themselves.
 
While the visuals are spectacular, it is the voice acting that truly sells the ideas of “Wreck-It Ralph.”  John C. Reilly, who is already a respected actor, delivers a touching performance as the title character.  His pain is evident as he expresses himself in a support group meeting with other game villains.  When he realizes he’s not been invited to the anniversary party within his own game, you can hear his spirit being crushed.  Reilly is also a great straight man for the other more humorous characters to play off of.  Vanellope loves to make fun of Ralph and the two are quite the comedic pairing.  Sarah Silverman seems to be playing a younger, less crude version of herself.  Her Vanellope is quick with a snide remark and quickly gets on Ralph’s nerves; however, the two quickly become good friends.  It’s a pairing that has to work to give the movie an emotional punch.  Otherwise, the entire story falls apart.
 
Jane Lynch plays a louder version of her “Glee” character as Sgt. Calhoun.  As we learn, she has the most painful backstory in all of video games, leading to her hard edged toughness; but, she’s also good for several funny lines read with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  She and Fit-It Felix, Jr. make for an odd pairing as they work together to find Ralph and the cyber bug that could destroy “Sugar Rush;” but the innocence expressed by Felix in Jack McBrayer’s voice work begins to melt Calhoun’s hard heart.  The budding romance between these two disparate characters adds an unexpected layer of sweetness to a film that already has plenty warm and fuzzy moments with Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship.  In other words, it has all the standard Disney warmth and good feelings but it also delivers a solid entertainment experience that many animated films often lack.
 
“Wreck-It Ralph” is rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence.  There’s a confrontation between Vanellope and King Candy that gets a little intense.  There’s also some very mild bathroom humor involving the word “duty” and the other word it sounds like.
 
“Wreck-It Ralph” is preceded by an animated short called “Paperman.”  It tells the romantic story of two strangers who meet by chance while waiting for a train and the effort one expends to find the other.  It is a sweet tale told in a 1960’s-inspired style.  While “Paperman” and “Wreck-It Ralph” don’t share much in common, they both tell stories of people willing to take a risk to achieve a goal.  Both films tell that story very well.  “Wreck-It Ralph” takes its setting from video games but could just as easily been set in an office, in the old west or outer space.  The story is translates well into any locale.
 
“Wreck-It Ralph” gets five guitars.
 
Bond, James Bond returns to theatres this week as the only wide release; but to make it a little more interesting, I’ll throw in some art house films for your consideration.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
 
The House I Live In—A documentary about the war on drugs, how it effects families and the legal system, and how it hasn’t worked.
 
The Paperboy—A death row inmate convicted of killing a racist cop may be innocent.  An investigative reporter, his partner and the reporter’s younger brother begin asking questions and perhaps trust the wrong people.
 
Samsara—A Sanskrit word meaning the “ever turning wheel of life,” this documentary takes a look at the day to day existence of people in over two dozen countries.
 
Skyfall—Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film currently playing in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be showing in Knoxville, TN.
 
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