‘Wreck-It Ralph’ has boundless creativity

Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, offers a cherry to his friends — Image courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph has so much creativity and cleverness that it becomes almost hampered by its far-flung ideas. The plot begins simple enough, but when new characters and story twists emerge, the movie teeters on that fine line between overzealous and overcrowded.

Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a bad guy with a good heart. He’s a character stuck in an arcade video game, and his sole purpose in life is to wreck buildings, just so the hero of the game can rebuild them again. At night, when the arcade kids have gone home and the game’s characters can let loose in their electronic land, Ralph finds himself ostracized from the good guys, including Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer). Ralph lives in the dump with a blanket of bricks to keep him warm. His so-called colleagues have parties in a swanky penthouse, while the man with the incredibly large fists is relegated to lonesomeness.

When Ralph decides to change his future and win a video game medal (an unthinkable act for a bad guy), the entire arcade universe is thrown off-kilter. There’s rumors of him going “Turbo,” or rogue.

This storyline alone can fill a 90-minute movie, but the movie’s creators jam-pack several more plots into the crowded film. They’ offshoots are all interesting and engaging, but there’s very little room for everyone to breathe and develop. There’s Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a character from a “Candyland”-like game who suffers from a computer glitch. There’s King Candy (Alan Tudyk), the villain of the movie. Calhoun (Jane Lynch) is a curvy soldier from a newer first-person shooter game, and she means business.

Each of these characters steal the spotlight from Ralph, and this creates a strange feeling. One enjoys the movie tremendously, but there’s just too much information to process. (Another minor quibble: The storyline feels like a Toy Story sequel. Think about it: Kids leave the room. Characters come to life. Heroes save the world. Villains are thwarted.)

Enough with the negatives. What about the positive attributes? The script, written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, is beyond clever and much better than most children’s fare nowadays. The writers, plus director Rich Moore, obviously have a great affinity for all the ins and outs of the retro video game world. You’ll see some of the best characters present and accounted for, including Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man. There’s one scene (perhaps the film’s funniest) where Ralph attends a “Bad Guy” group meeting that’s similar to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Zombies bump elbows with Satan, and all of the baddies feel sorry for themselves. Hilarity incarnate.

The voice acting is exquisite, especially from Lynch and Tudyk (who sounds like a clown with a lot of sugar). There’s never a time when a smile leaves one’s face. Wreck-It Ralph makes a strong case for best animated feature of the year (although I’m still partial to ParaNorman). The movie has so much going for it that there’s too much to enjoy. But a bounty of delights is always better than a lackluster effort. Bravo for too much good stuff!

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Wreck-It Ralph

  • 2012

  • Directed by Rich Moore

  • Written by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee

  • Featuring the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer and Alan Tudyk

  • Running time: 108 minutes

  • Rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence

  • Rating: ★★★½

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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