Disney/Pixar build lovable world in ‘Wreck-It Ralph’

On the surface, “Wreck-It Ralph” is not a brand new product. The film, however, is packaged as a fun gaming adventure with heart.

Immediate comparisons to Disney/Pixar’s “Toy Story” series will come to mind. Wreck-It Ralph makes this point blatantly obvious as he introduces the audience to his world, a world unseen by the people who visit the arcade he lives in. This particular plot point could be a deterrent for film-goers looking for something wholly original, but I was able to dismiss it and as a result had a great time.

Within this arcadian world are portals into the various games including “Street Fighter” and “Pac Man.” Ralph’s world is cleverly explained with a dose of humor that makes the entire experience a delight. The story doesn’t let up there. The cleverly placed video game icons draw an audience in, but the ever-changing setting, silly puns, and heart keep the viewers engaged.

Wreck-It Ralph starts out as a bad guy questioning his purpose in the gaming world. Ralph is a Donkey Kong/Rampage hybrid character who is forced to destroy a building day after day while an uppity handyman fixes Ralph’s destruction. Ralph breaks the gaming world rules as he enters new games in hopes of gaining recognition as a hero.

Ralph encounters topsy-turvy characters that parody modern and classic video games. Each has his or her own set of quirks that can either be interpreted as annoying or endearing.

“Wreck-It Ralph” has one of the most outstanding casts of voice actors in recent years. Each character’s animated façade matches its actor’s vocal characterization. John C. Reilly doesn’t differentiate his titular character’s voice too much from his natural voice, but his changes in vocal tone and the cadence provide the heart a lovable Disney animated protagonist needs. I loved Reilly’s performance and his partner in video game high jinks Vanellope Von Schweetz played by the delightfully high-pitched Sarah Silverman.

The standout performance, however, comes from Alan Tudyk. I’m sure that’s a name many don’t have much knowledge of. Tudyk has popped up in films such as “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” and will most definitely have a career of voice acting in his future following “Ralph.” King Candy’s characterization is comparable to Ed Wynn of “Mary Poppins” fame and Charles Fleischer’s Roger Rabbit. King Candy is delightfully zany and altogether a colorful cartoon character with motivations that are mysterious and interesting.

Fixing Ralph’s mess is the perfectly cast Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix, the happy-go-lucky Mario-meets-Disney handyman. Finally, the most recognizable actor on screen is Jane Lynch as Sergeant Calhoun in her “Gears of War” meets “Metroid Prime” duds.

My favorite thing about “Wreck-It Ralph” is its surprisingly whip-smart story that intersects a world unknown to us with human emotions such as envy, loneliness and drive. Director Rich Moore and his writing partners Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee successfully present a fun, funny, and quick-paced film that will surely have both parents and kids laughing.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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