Wreck-It Ralph | Movie review
John C. Reilly voices the title character in this Pixar-less outing.
Set in a universe of video games that sound real but aren’t, the new Disney animated feature Wreck-It Ralph goes easy on product placement. Still, that doesn’t preclude the occasional cameo by a real-life character. The eponymous ne’er-do-well (John C. Reilly), villain of a Donkey Kong–like game called Fix It Felix Jr., attends a support group with Bowser and Pac-Man’s Clyde. Programmed to be the bad guy, he’s actually a big softie who wants to be loved. After inadvertently trashing a party designed to celebrate Fix It Felix’s anniversary (he’s Ralph! He wrecks things…), our man “goes turbo,” jumping to other titles in the arcade. Accordingly, the movie becomes a feature-length study in the evolution of gaming, as Ralph, who hails from a more innocent era of joysticking, earns a medal as a first-person shooter (to the consternation of commando Jane Lynch) and eventually settles down in Sugar Rush, a racing game that suggests Oz crossed with Candy Land. He befriends the sprightly Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), whose hideout provides the movie’s most inspired touch: a secret level built around a lake of Diet Coke, rendered volcano-dangerous by the Mentos stalagmites hovering above.
“Sugar rush” is an apt description for Wreck-It Ralph, which has great highs but ultimately feels as undernourishing and frantic as an afternoon lost to Mega Man. Best to savor the visual gags: Especially in scenes depicting Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his family, the Pixar-less team has great fun mimicking a Nintendo-ish, herky-jerky animation style. Not retro enough? Wreck-It Ralph is preceded by “Paperman,” a romantic b&w short that seems aimed at parents nostalgic for The Apartment.