'Wreck-It Ralph' Is a Safe Bet for Family Fun

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to Pizza Hut with my family to use our Book-It Book Club certificates for mini personal pan pizzas. Those outings promised not only fun with the parmesan cheese and pepper shakers, but also a full evening of playing the restaurant’s arcade games, particularly Street Fighter and Pac-Man. So, when I first saw the trailer for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph this summer, I was overwhelmed by a wave of nostalgia and put it on my must-see list.

Wreck-It Ralph (rated PG) is Disney’s most recent 3D computer-animated family comedy, set in the world of arcade games. The movie tells the story of Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), the villain in the arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr., who is tired of being the bad guy, always the outcast and never the hero. In order to gain acceptance among the other characters in his own game, Ralph leaves in search of a hero medal, dropping into other video games on his quest. 

The first half of the movie is quite witty and borderline brilliant. The opening scene is set in a video game villain support group, where Bowser and Dr. Eggman make cameo appearances. In order to move from game to game, characters have to travel through wires in the arcade to the central power strip, called GameCentral Station. There, and in Tapper’s Bar — where the game villains go to grab a drink — we meet Cammy and Blanka from Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Frogger and others. For videogame aficionados, Wreck-It Ralph becomes a great game of spot-the-reference.

However, mid-way through Ralph’s journey, the movie takes a wrong turn into a go-kart game called Sugar Rush. Here, we are introduced to Venellope Von Schweetz, a fellow outcast character who is gratingly voiced by Sarah Silverman. At that point, many of the laughs and clever references come to a screeching halt, and the story becomes a bit plastic and cutesy. However, the characters do develop some heart-warming relationships, and the plot weaves in a creative twist or two, so there’s enough to keep you interested until the end.

Wreck-It Ralph certainly takes imaginative risks, and anyone who loves video games will find it particularly entertaining. However, if you go in expecting a movie of the same caliber as Toy Story or The Incredibles, you will be disappointed. Still, it is a good choice for a family-friendly, feel-good flick, especially on a rainy afternoon this holiday season.