The latest Disney flick is a lively, sure-to-please-the-younger-set nostalgia comedy that would feel like a success if Pixar hadn’t ruined our expectations with films like Wall-E and Up. The story unfolds inside a computer game at an arcade, itself a microcosmic world filled with various consoles that are all connected via the power cords and a surge protector. The premise is simple enough. Ralph is the villain in an early arcade game (lots of 8-bit jokes, naturally) who is tired of being the bad guy. When he tries to take his fate and identity in his own hands, traveling to an high-energy and newfangled war game to win a “medal,” and thus win the hearts and minds of the do-gooders that populate his “home game,” all hell literally breaks loose. A bug-like monster chases Ralph into a third game, a Mario Kart-like racer set in a “Candy Land” world, and the real villain – a “virus” — threatens to bring the entire arcade down.
Wreck-It Ralph is a jolly, slapstick thing, thanks, in part, to the gentle giant intonations of John C. Reilly voicing the title role. In the Candy-racing game, he befriends Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a spunky upstart who dreams of racing in her own game, but is locked out because she’s a “glitch,” that is, she flickers and flashes here and there, a sign that her code is broken. It all becomes a warm-hearted fable about being true your true self, sacrificing for your friends, and finding courage and honor within the restraints life hands you. Sweet as a lollipop, but exciting too, and occasionally funny, even if the body humor and knick-knack wisecracks will have your 8-year-old in stiches, while you smirk, pleasantly amused. If anything plays through the generations here, it’s the clever incorporation of the “Contra” code.