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Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph is top shelf

Disney Wreck-It Ralph
Wreck-It Ralph is a video game love letter in its rarest form: it’s a video game movie that actually works.

Our titular hero Ralph (John C. Reilly) is a hard-luck building smasher who watches his video game antagonist Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) rake in the love, adulation and hero medals of the tower tenants Ralph is tasked with evicting. Ralph is not so popular with the other people in his game, so when the game has its 30th anniversary, Ralph decides he wants to be a hero and win his own medal. He skips out of Fix-It Felix Jr. and explores the larger world of the arcade and its collected characters. Ralph snags an ill-gotten medal before landing in Sugar Rush, a Candyland go-kart clone lorded over by the pompous King Candy (Alan Tudyk).

Our big lug finds a fellow traveller in Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), Sugar Rush’s glitchy but cute as a gumdrop outcast who wants nothing more than to win the big race. Racing, she says, is in her code, and she and Ralph soon hatch a plan to win the race and win back the medal Ralph lost on arrival.

But Ralph didn’t come to Sugar Rush alone. A nasty cybug latches onto him and starts to take over Sugar Rush, threatening all the cute little tykes who live there. Ralph and Vanellope must team up with Fix-It Felix and tough-as-nails space soldier Calhoun (Jane Lynch) to save the day.

The story is another Disney success. It doesn’t go for the heartstrings like Pixar’s exemplary Up or Toy Story, and it doesn’t ever hit that depth of feeling, but that’s okay. It’s a lighter, more fun tone, anchored by Sarah Silverman’s pixie stick-sweetness and charm.

Sarah Silverman Vanellope Von Schweetz Wreck-It Ralph

Vanellope Von Schweetz.

Jane Lynch adds a good straight character in her Halo-esque drill sergeant Calhoun, a.k.a. Jane Lynch, Space Marine. Calhoun hates cybugs and is a never-ending source of badass Duke Nukem witticisms.

Calhoun Jane Lynch Wreck-It Ralph Glee

“The kitten whispers and tickle fights stop now!”

The trend in kids movies for the last decade has been to strike a balance between appealing to child and adult audiences, but Wreck-It Ralph probably has more to offer nostalgic grown-ups than it does kids. The movie is a big trip down memory lane, as many of the most recognizable video game properties crop up. Disney got a barrel full of property licenses, meaning we see Frogger, Space Invaders and Pac Man at the arcade. Inside the game world, watch for Sonic the Hedgehog doing a PSA, Streetfighter‘s Ken and Ryu grabbing a root beer and Mario baddie Bowser sitting in on Bad-Anon, a video game villain support group.

Video games have traditionally been disastrous movie subject matter. Middling accomplishments like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Resident Evil float to the top of a cesspool that includes the laughably bad Doom, the Jake Gyllenhal Prince of Persia debacle and the heinous Super Mario Bros.

Wreck-It Ralph gets it right by not taking it too seriously – or too literally. Disney gives us an original story set up more like the old Reboot cartoon, drawing back the curtain behind the little people that live out the games we play.

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph is a solid story filled with humour, heart and a healthy dose of nostalgia for the closet video game nerd or the hardcore gamer.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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