WRECK-IT RALPH is set inside the world of arcade-style video games. Just as the TOY STORY characters have busy lives when they're left on their own, the video game characters live in a world which includes after-hours parties and support group meetings. I especially love that the characters from the different games intermingle in a grand central station type terminal in the games' power strip!
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is tired of being a bad guy, despite the encouragement of his villains' support group. ("Being a bad guy doesn't make me a bad guy!") He wants some of the love and attention showered on his game's hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer). Ralph "goes rogue" and enters a "first person shooter" game, Hero's Duty, determined to win a hero's medal which he believes will make him popular back home in the Wreck-It Ralph game. Jane Lynch is quite funny voicing the shooter game's verrrry commanding Lt. Calhoun.
There's a lot to like in the film, including a consistently amusing story and some marvelous visual touches. I especially loved the candy sprinkles in Vanellope's hair and her green and white peppermint-striped leggings. The Sugar Rush world is quite entertaining, even working in Mentos exploding in Diet Coke, and it provides an excellent visual contrast with the ultra-dark world of Hero's Duty, which is seen relatively briefly.
The movie mixes smart original touches with concepts which are very familiar; for instance, Ralph's support group calls to mind both FINDING NEMO (2003) -- "Fish are friends, not food!" -- and the TOY STORY short SMALL FRY (2011), which memorably features a support group for discarded Happy Meal toys.
The familiarity is actually part of the charm; for instance, classic film fans will appreciate touches such as the Wizard-of-Oz-like King Candy (Alan Tudyk) very clearly being an homage to Disney character actor Ed Wynn. King Candy's policemen are donuts named Duncan (Horatio Sanz) and Wynnchel (Adam Carolla); though the names sound like the famous donut chains, the spelling of Wynnchel appears to be another Ed Wynn tribute. The Oz similarity is underscored by the Oreo cookie guards singing "March of the Winkies" from THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), a laugh-out-loud funny moment.
Parental advisory: This film is rated PG. I frankly found the amount of unfunny "bathroom humor" and crass language surprising in a Disney film. It's extensive enough that I probably would not have allowed my children to watch the movie when they were young. Apparently this language is an attempt to be "contemporary" or "cool," but it was utterly unnecessary and mars what is otherwise a family-friendly, enjoyable film with positive messages about friendship and helping others.
WRECK-IT RALPH was directed by Rich Moore. It runs 101 minutes.