As the antagonist of quaint 8-bit game Fix-It Felix, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) notes, "It's hard to love your job when nobody appreciates you for doing it." The literal knuckle dragger goes through the same routine every day: try to wreck a high rise before Felix (Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock) can fix it, then get tossed in the mud by the angry building tenants while Felix gets a shiny medal of honour and heaps of fawning adoration.
When it's closing time at the arcade, Toy Story-style, the game characters have personalities and lives outside of their entertainment duties. On the 30th anniversary of his game, Ralph, feeling even more lonely and underappreciated than normal, attends a villain support group hosted by one of the Pac-Man ghosts that's populated by characters like Super Mario's Bowser and Street Fighter's Russian bear wrestler, Zangief. This scene cleverly spins nostalgia into a touching discussion of the psychological toll of being vilified for doing an unpleasant, but necessary job.
It's a shame more time isn't spent on this kind of poignant character work and world building — the best bits of the movie involve little asides like a homeless Q-Bert representing games that have been unplugged. Instead, it doesn't take long for Ralph to become fixated on being the hero in a different game since he can't be one in his.
The results of tampering with the status quo are depicted as dangerous and destructive — heroics are all well and good, but know your role and learn to love it. While it's refreshing for a story aimed at kids to say that not everyone can be, or should aspire to be, a hero, the way Wreck-It Ralph goes about doing so is a little hypocritical and a bit disconcerting in its enforcement of strict class divides.
Even so, with a vibrant colour palette, highly kinetic action, witty rendering of the movements of 8-bit game characters in HD CGI and Sarah Silverman as an annoying candy-kart racing brat who sneaks in phrases like, "vurp" (burping up vomit), Wreck-It Ralph is worth a watch in the absence of superior offerings from Dreamworks or Pixar. (Disney)