Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) knows a thirty-year gig as an arcade character is a good run, but he needs a change. He’s tired of being the bad guy, the bully who destroys things to make game’s hero and namesake Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), look good. “Are there medals for wrecking stuff really well?” he wonders. The answer, of course, is no.
To prove he’s more than just a clumsy oaf who breaks things, that he can be a hero, he game jumps from Fix-It Felix to Hero’s Duty, a violent game with a gold medal as a prize. But things have changed in thirty years. “When did video games get so violent and scary?,” he says.
Unfortunately the game also has evil Cy-Bugs that Ralph inadvertently brings over to another game, the saccharine Sugar Rush. Game jumping once again Ralph discovers a kindred soul, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), battles the bugs and learns that sometimes being bad is good.
The first twenty minutes of “Wreck-It Ralph” are a blast. Spectacular animation, great storytelling and loads of inventive humour set the stage. Unfortunately once Ralph jumps from one game to the next the movie becomes much more standard.
It’s still eye candy, but the cleverness of the beginning disappears, replaced by video game style action adventure. True, it is populated by some fun characters—Jane Lynch is hilarious as the tough talking commando character while Alan Tudyk mixes a hint of the Great Gazoo with Wally Cox to come up with King Candy—and the action is broken up by some inventive animation but the spark of the opening just isn’t there.
Arcade purists, however, will find much to get their joysticks in a knot over. Anyone who grew up playing the first generation of arcade video games will get a nostalgic twinge at the jittery animation of the older characters, and it is a hoot to see the 8-bit bartender from Tapper, Street Fighter’s Zangief and Doctor Eggman all come to glorious digital life.
“Wreck-It Ralph” is better than average, with strong messages about friendship and accepting who you are, and despite being state-of-the-art, has a nice nostalgic glow. Just like the glow of an arcade gaming console.