Originality and creative possibility are in no short supply with Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph, a light, fun animated adventure that never quite lives up to its potential, but still offers enough to withstand its rather lengthy running time.
Taking place in the world of an arcade, the film follows Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), the bad guy in the old arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr., where the titular character (voiced by Jack McBrayer) must protect an apartment building from Ralph. All Ralph does is wreck stuff, so when a brand new shooting game enters the arcade, Ralph abandons his game and enters Hero’s Duty, in order to win a “gold medal” and gain acceptance from the heroes in his own game and throughout Game Central Station.
It’s a cute story that will be sure to please kids and videogame fans alike, but the ingenuity of the concept should please any fan of storytelling as well. Unfortunately the film never hits the heights it promises, as it often relies on run-of-the-mill jokes and storytelling devices. When Ralph unleashes a deadly enemy from Hero’s Duty, he is thrust into the world of Sugar Rush, a colorful, cart racing version of Candyland, where he befriends the outsider Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), who has been abandoned by the other characters in the game due to her being a “glitch.”
Fix-It Felix, Jr. and Hero’s Duty squadron leader Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch) must enter Sugar Rush and return Wreck-It Ralph to his game before it gets shut down due to his abandonment. What’s worse is the deadly enemy that threatens Sugar Rush also threatens every other game in the arcade. The film is action-packed and brimming with color and energy, thanks to direction from Rich Moore (The Simpsons). Yet the story relies too much on traditional devices and story direction, not to mention too often featuring silly, crude humor penned by screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnson.
There are some fun characters and voice performances within Sugar Rush, such as the flamboyant King Candy (voiced by Alan Tudyk), his two pastry police, voiced by Adam Carolla and Horatrio Sanz, and Taffyta Muttonfudge (voiced by Mindy Kaling). Other fun voice actors include Ed O’Neill as Mr. Litwak in Fix-It Felix, Jr. and Dennis Haysbert as General Hologram in Hero’s Duty.
There are some fun, unique moments of comedy to be had, particularly when it comes to Wreck-It Ralph’s times at Bad Guy Anonymous, but most of the action and entertainment is fairly run-of-the-mill. The story and humor treads little new ground, and while you’ll laugh and smile here and there, it’s hard to not feel disappointed, as the film offers an abundance of promise. Wreck-It Ralph causes much less harm than its titular character, and there are the typical uplifting morals of being accepting of others and of who you are, but while it tells the audience being different is okay, it ends up being not that different from the rest of the animated field.
Rated: PG (for some rude humor and mild action/violence)
Wreck-It Ralph opens in theaters on November 2, 2012. Note: We advise showing up early to catch the wonderful short Paperman before the feature.