Pixar’s “Toy Story” movies brilliantly theorized that our childhood toys came to life when we left the room.
Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph” takes a similar leap: When we leave the arcade, the computer-game characters have lives of their own, interacting in a virtual world.
Unlike “Toy Story,” this film isn’t groundbreaking or brilliant in any way. It’s inventive and amusing, however, and entertaining for the entire family.
Wreck-It Ralph is a character in a 1980s-era video game called “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” a Donkey Kong-like dinosaur still standing around in a modern arcade.
For 30 years, Ralph has been a villain, a ham-handed 9-foot tall brute who breaks things — only to have them put back together by the hero, Felix, with his magic hammer. For 30 years, Ralph has been thrown off the top of a tall building every day, then dusted himself off and gone home to a pile of bricks.
Though it’s against his programming, Ralph dreams of being the hero, just once.
“Wreck-It Ralph” offers a fair burst of nostalgia, with cameo appearances by beloved characters like Pac-Man, Q*Bert, Dig Dug, Sonic and Frogger. It spends most of its time, though, bouncing between the “Fix-It Felix” game, a first-person shooter called “Hero’s Duty” and “Sugar Rush,” a cart-racing game set in a Candy Land world.
John C. Reilly provides a perfect voice for the lovable lug Ralph, with Jack McBrayer (“30 Rock”) an excellent foil as the sunshiny Felix. Jane Lynch (“Glee”) is also good as the voice of brutally efficient killing machine Sergeant Calhoun.
Sadly, Sarah Silverman is a bit of an annoyance as the voice of Vanellope, a precocious little girl who befriends Ralph. Vanellope is a computer glitch in pre-adolescent form who dreams of being a Sugar Rush racer, but needs Ralph’s help to overcome numerous obstacles.
“Wreck-It Ralph” isn’t “Toy Story,” and Ralph and Vanellope are no Buzz and Woody. The characters aren’t as well-formed or memorable, and the story gets unnecessarily syrupy.
Kids, however, won’t be disappointed, and parents will find enough to keep themselves amused.
Rental recommendation: “Madagascar 3” is funnier than you’d think a second sequel to an animated film would be. Grade: B+
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Starring: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman
Rated: PG (for some rude humor and mild action/violence)
Running time: 108 minutes