Guided by executive producer John Lasseter, Walt Disney Animation Studios clearly has devoted significant resources and talent to the 3D animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph, an homage to classic video-game culture wrapped in an adventurous road movie. With a mix of retro eye candy for grown-ups and a thrilling, approachable storyline for tykes, the film casts a wide and beguiling net.
Emulating an '80s video game, Ralph envisions the title character as a short-tempered, sledgehammer-fisted, 600-pound bad guy competing against goody-goody nemesis Felix in a game located in Mr. Litwak's (Ed O'Neill) arcade known as "Fix-It Felix Jr." As Ralph (John C. Reilly) tells fellow evildoers at his first "Bad-Anon" meeting, he's a reluctant villain, tired of tearing down the building inhabited by Nicelanders who worship Felix (Jack McBrayer) for his repair skills.
Ralph's ready for a change and wants to earn the Nicelanders' respect. Traveling through the arcade's power cords, he journeys to Game Central Station, the gateway to all games, and into the HD first-person-shooter challenge "Hero's Duty," where he suits up to join the platoon of Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Next he lands in "Sugar Rush," a Candy Land-style race-car game, and meets pint-sized Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).
Although the script is an original by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee, its tortured toy characters facing obsolescence and searching for freedom and meaning bear distinct Pixar DNA. Making his feature debut, Emmy-winning director Rich Moore (The Simpsons) ably manipulates the action by tantalizingly shifting the characters between game worlds and orchestrating a dizzying array of visual elements. Visually, Pixar's influence also is evident in the detail lavished on the range of quirky characters and nearly every setting. An enthusiastic cast lends voice to the characters, led by Reilly and the super-snarky Silverman, who marvelously calibrates her volume, insinuating tone and emotional impact to match her character's antic facial expressions and unpredictable behavior.
Opens: Friday, Nov. 2 (Disney)
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer
Director: Rich Moore
Rated PG, 93 minutes