‘Wreck-It Ralph’ works on many levels

Movie review
By: Frank Miller, Special to The News Messenger
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“Wreck-It Ralph

Directed by Rich Moore           

Voice Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman and Jack McBrayer

Rating: Four out of five stars

Who knew that video game bad guys harbored such existential baggage about their indentured occupations?

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is a brute who smashes buildings in an arcade game called “Fix-It Felix, Jr.”

However, being a villain has taken its toll on Ralph and he longs for equal adoration that is heaped upon the game’s protagonist, Felix.

When Ralph is promised acceptance if he obtains a hero’s medal, he jumps from game to game to win his way to the respect he craves.

He finds himself crossing paths with various video game characters both old and new and seeing first-hand how difficult it is to change his ways and be a good guy.

When he lands in a candy-themed kart-racing game called “Sugar Rush,” he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a diminutive glitchy character with whom Ralph forges a reluctant friendship to achieve his goals.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is filled with vintage video game nostalgia and charm but the film is worth its weight in quarters due to the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope.

Silverman in particular is easily the best part of the film. The life and spunk she brings to Vanellope is immeasurable. The interplay between her and Reilly makes the soggy middle section of the movie forgivable and gives real emotional impact to the climax.

Comparisons can be drawn to Pixar’s “Toy Story” films and “Wreck-It Ralph” is arguably better than Pixar’s recent output because of this influence.

The film also owes a lot to Mario-themed games such as “Donkey Kong” and “Mario Kart” but manages to forge its own identity despite the amount of in-jokes and references for old-school gamers.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is the first successful video game movie because it treats the conventions of gaming with respect while remembering to tell a good story. When Ralph finally learns to accept who he is and others will like him anyway, it feels like equally good advice for video game movies as well.

Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.