Movie Review: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ feels like new Disney classic

Aliza Weinberger, Columnist

Video games are a common part of life for our generation. For the past 30 years, kids have entertained themselves with virtual worlds: from arcades, to at-home game consoles, to hand-helds. The names and characters of these games are part of popular culture. I saw three Marios alone at Halloween this year. So how can a movie, a completely different art form from video games, take that ubiquitous genre and make it fresh and interesting? Just like Pixar did more than 15 years ago with “Toy Story,” Disney has asked the question: What happens to video game characters after the players leave? And specifically, what happens when a character coded to be the villain gets tired with his lot in life? That is the premise of Disney’s latest film, “Wreck-It Ralph,” a movie that was both hilarious and heart-warming. It is sure to be a new Disney classic.

The film centers on the titular Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), the villain of a 30-year-old arcade game in which he breaks down an apartment building the hero, Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), must repair. But Ralph is ostracized within his game, as well as within the video game community, because he is a “bad guy.” After three decades of being excluded, ignored or derided, Ralph reaches his breaking point. He makes a spur-of-the-moment bet with a side character in “Fix-it Felix, Jr.” that he can win a medal in another video game. This decision catapults him on a journey through a series of games, from the horrifying to the deceptively sweet. Along the way he meets a gruff military leader from “Hero’s Duty” called Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the annoying yet adorable aspiring racer Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and various other familiar-looking characters who are all either trying to help or hinder his quest for glory.

Like most Disney movies, “Wreck-It Ralph” has top-notch visuals. The graphics are wonderful, and the different game environments evoke the best of the genres they represent. Characters from the various games are animated to match their origins, and each locale is unique. Their movements even feel video game-esque, making the world of the film feel real in context.

The best part of the movie is the balance of humor and heart, a very Disney quality the company seems to have perfected. The message of the film is one of loving who you are, never accepting defeat and not listening to what the world says you can or cannot be. But instead of being a flat or stale moral, the lessons of the movie are more complicated. As Ralph forges relationships with others and learns more about himself through his journey, he and the viewer get a more complex view of life and his place in it. Ralph and Vanellope’s interactions are comedic and cute, and personally, it’s one of the few times I’ve loved a Sarah Silverman character. Jane Lynch, as always, knocks it out of the park, and John C. Reilly’s Ralph was the perfect “anti-hero” who was, in the end, the best kind of hero.

Yes, it was at times sappy or overly saccharine, but “Wreck-It Ralph” was also fun and funny — a great kids’ movie everyone can enjoy.