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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 44
He got game
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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He got game

Inspired Wreck-It Ralph is well worth your quarters

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

WRECK-IT RALPH
Opens November 2


Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is tired of being the bad guy. He's the thug in the old-school 'Fix-It Felix Jr.' video game, the guy responsible for all the smashing and mashing and bashing that puts the residents of Niceland in jeopardy. He looks at Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his magic hammer with envy, longing to earn the same type of shiny gold medal of appreciation his nemesis receives daily. In short, he wants to be the good guy. Being bad has led the gigantic brute to the edge of depression.

And so he 'turbos,' or game-jumps, leaping out of his three-decade-old favorite into a brand-new CGI first-person shooter, 'Hero's Duty.' Using brute strength over intellect, he finally secures a medal all his own, but one calamity leads to another and next thing Ralph knows he's in the middle of the candy-coated racing game 'Sugar Rush,' arguing with pint-sized wannabe racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). She steals his medal so she can enter the race establishing the next day's combatants, her glitchy personality making the omnipotent King Candy (Alan Tudyk) fearful she'll turn off the players and lead to their game being unplugged.

TOTAL IMMERSION
Wreck-It Ralph is more fun than anything I could have hoped for. Right off that bat the movie is a total delight, immersing me right into the center of its inspired video-game world with a remarkably confident ease. The screenplay by newcomer Jennifer Lee and veteran Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids) is an invigorating story of resilience and friendship fitting perfectly within the Disney canon, and personally I can't wait to see the film again.

Keeping up with all of the in-movie video games gags and aside is virtually impossible. From the Bad-a-Non Support Group, to appearances by the likes of Q-Bert, Princess Daisy, and Chun-Li, to numerous other visual references game fanatics will enjoy pointing out to their less clued-in friends, the filmmakers have done their homework. This is a fully realized interactive world where new and old schools come together with believable ease, allowing our fascination with games and gaming culture to take on a life of its own in much the same fashion our enchantment with childhood toys gave the original Toy Story its zest and zeal.

FLESHED-OUT CHARACTERS
But, more importantly, Lee and Johnston have constructed a scenario of self-realization that's so three-dimensional and character-driven it gives these little stylistic traits far more vitality and heart than they'd ever have had otherwise. They make Ralph a true hero, Vanellope the type of spunky best friend easy to adore, and Felix the good-hearted everyman we all wish to some extent we could be, his relationship with hard-as-nails 'Hero's Duty' Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch) all the more intoxicating because of this. They make King Candy, a colorful conglomeration of the Mad Hatter and Humpty Dumpty, a hissable villain but one with a tragic back-story that makes his actions understandable as well as risible.

It gets a little overly chaotic and silly at the end, never quite achieving the same start-to-finish brilliance Pixar manages more often than not (the three Toy Story adventures being the most obvious example). The rushed nature of the final act, while fitting the video-game esthetic, wasn't entirely satisfying.

Yet Wreck-It Ralph is a joy in almost every other way that matters, delivering sights, sounds, and most importantly a story that family audiences are sure to embrace. Ralph and Vanellope's mutual narratives mix together beautifully, their evolution from rivals to uneasy partners to friends a rapturous tale viewers of all ages will relate to. There is no 'game over' here, no need to plug in extra quarters - the final product is a spellbinding game of sibling-like friendship, virtual or no, proving that heroism comes from within and that family, whether cybernetic or human, is the most important lifeline of them all.

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