Some villains are just 8-bit programmed that way, you know? Such is the case with the titular character of Wreck-It Ralph, a video-game baddie who is forced to hulk-smash during his professional life; yet when the lights go out, he yearns to be a hero. Disney did good here. They licensed some of the most important arcade-era characters, including Pac Man’s ghosts, Q*Bert, and Sonic the Hedgehog, and parents will love this throwback to their youths. This movie isn’t just a trip into nostalgia land for retro-video gamers. There’s an actual story and some real feeling embedded within, and overall, the movie is a riveting adventure. In addition, Wreck-It Ralph is intricate for a Disney story, so I’ll resist recounting the entire story for fear of spoiling the fun of the ride.
Back to our terribly likable villain (from an audience standpoint). Poor Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) hates his thankless job (“It’s hard to like your job when no one loves you for doing it”), but he enjoys no free will and is therefore forced to repeatedly act out planned fits of combativeness that result in destroyed buildings in the “Fix-It Felix Jr.” game universe. In turn, he is also doomed to be defeated each and every day by Felix (Jack McBrayer), who is the game’s hero that repairs all of Ralph’s unwitting damage. Ralph’s recycled fate is kind of a raw deal and a terrible profession for a video game character to endure; he’s tired of the endless humiliation and ready to put an end to it.
He’s not alone in his disgruntled villain status either, for Ralph often spends his after hours at Grand Game Central, a surge protector/terminal in the arcade where various game characters meet each evening. Ralph finds himself attending (very cute) “Bad-Anon” meetings where he begins to hatch a plan for sneaking into another game in the arcade to win a medal and, hopefully, win the respect of the Nicelanders from his game. This is a tough order, for the Nicelanders are faithfully devoted to Felix and, to succeed, Ralph must also abide by the many rules of the arcade. Most importantly, if Ralph gets killed in a game other than his home game, he’ll never be resurrected to fight another round anywhere. To complicate matters, there’s a nasty virus working its way throughout the arcade’s conduits in the form of spider-like creatures called Cy-Bugs.
During his quest, Ralph finds a quick friend in Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a sweet, zany little “glitch” who resides in the “Sugar Rush Speedway” game and not only gives Ralph a run for his coveted medal but also helps him learn from her own thwarted goals to try and race in her own game. Vanellope gives him a reason to care about someone else when she falls into harm’s way. Together, Ralph and Vanellope make quite the odd, mismatched, comedic pair (she a hyperactive, sarcastic little bit and he’s a world-weary, yet ultimately sincere 600-pound giant) but are so endearing that one cannot help but root for them. They are each appropriately voiced by Reilly and Silverman (with ready aid and opposition from characters voiced by Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, and Ed O’Neill), and while the film’s frenetic pace isn’t quite ADD-friendly, it definitely moves at a very swift pace and will refuse to let even the most cynical viewer grow bored.
Overall, this film features a good time for both boys and girls, and their parents will enjoy the heady trip into their own childhoods without ruining memories like Hollywood tends to do (see Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks). Wreck-It Ralph not only features stellar visuals but also a shit ton of character development. As an added bonus, I appreciate the hell out of a Disney flick that doesn’t revolve around princesses. Go watch Wreck-It Ralph before it gets spoiled by the inevitable sequel.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.