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posted: 11/1/2012 5:00 AM

Engaging 'Ralph' a nostalgic 3-D trip into video game world

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  • Ralph the villainous destructor (John C. Reilly) offers up some fruity concessions in Walt Disney's 3-D animated comedy "Wreck-It Ralph."

      Ralph the villainous destructor (John C. Reilly) offers up some fruity concessions in Walt Disney's 3-D animated comedy "Wreck-It Ralph."

  • Video: WRECK IT RALPH trailer

 
 

It's funny. It's colorful.

The 3-D animation looks sensational.

But what does Walt Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" really say to kids and to us?

It says we should be happy where we are right now. We shouldn't strive to become anything we're already not. We should be content with our lots in life.

Whaaaaat?

"Wreck-It Ralph" concerns a video game character who dreams of becoming more than he is, the villain in a game scenario. He gets the jeers. The hero gets the cheers.

After struggling to break out of his rut for most of the running time in Rich Moore's engaging animated feature, guess what Ralph learns? He learns that somebody has to be the bad guy, so why can't Ralph just shut up and be content to be the best bad guy he can be?

Kinda puts a crimp in the whole idea of self-improvement, doesn't it?

"Wreck-It Ralph" joins a fairly highbrow group of movies that encourage audiences to kill their dreams and accept their routine lives.

Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey learns the hard way that he'll never fulfill his dream of getting out of Bedford Falls in "It's a Wonderful Life." He has too many responsibilities that keep him tethered to the Building and Loan and to the town. Give it up, George.

Even Dorothy in the closing scene from "The Wizard of Oz" delivers a speech about what she's learned about daring to run away from home: "If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!"

Stay in your black-and-white world, Dorothy. Sorry.

As a work of sheer entertainment, "Wreck-It Ralph" is delightful, a sensory overload of bright lights, candy colors and fast-paced video game action scenes stuffed with nostalgic characters from the golden age of arcade games.

Look! There's Pac-Man! Look! There's a flying knight from Joust! Look! There's Q-Bert! Look! There's that wacky character from that game I don't remember the name of, but I used to play it!

This movie works its arcade nostalgia so well that I almost reached into my pocket for a quarter.

In this world, Ralph -- voiced with plenty of personality by Chicago's own beloved John C. Reilly -- has been doing the same job, wrecking the same old building, for 30 years. He never gets any love or appreciation. All that goes to Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), the hero, who doesn't even invite Ralph to the game's 30th anniversary party.

Dejected and depressed, Ralph attends Bad-Anon, a self-help group for video game villains. (Exactly why is Pac-Man in this organization?)

One day, Ralph snaps.

He bolts from his game and begins a thrilling cross-game odyssey of self-discovery in his quest to be the hero.

He hooks up with a "glitch," an imperfect character named Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman who, like Reilly, has a voice made for animation). She's on the lam from the "Sugar Rush Speedway" game.

Ralph comes across lots of interesting game characters, including the lisping King Candy (Alan Tudyk) and the caustic, no-frills Sgt. Calhoun (the incredible Jane Lynch) from the war game "Hero's Duty."

In this world, it's OK for characters to die inside their own games. But if they croak outside, they can't be regenerated. Ever.

Another good reason for Ralph and everyone else in videoland to stay safe. And stay put.

Note: Before "Wreck-It Ralph" you can see John Kahrs' black-and-white, romantic, old-fashioned hand-drawn short "Paperman," a whimsical ditty about a man who spots a woman on a commuter train, then dispatches a kajillion paper airplanes to get her to notice him in the building next to hers.

Very sweet.

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