Wreck-It Ralph (voice by John C. Reilly) is the big-fisted demolitionist in the arcade video game Fix-It Felix Jr. But he’s tired of being the bad guy. He wants some positive recognition. He wants appreciation. He wants a medal.
However the only person who wins a medal in this game code is Fix-It Felix (voice by Jack McBrayer), the eternally upbeat hero with the golden hammer that cheerfully repairs every broken window and dislodged brick left behind by Ralph.
When the other characters celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary without even inviting Wreck-It Ralph to the penthouse party, the bushy-haired antagonist decides it is time to prove he really has a heart of gold. While the arcade is closed, Ralph ventures into another game called Hero’s Duty. Inside the program, he dons armor and joins forces with the brash and tough-as-nails female commander Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) in order to win a shiny gold medallion. But when the battle becomes more violent than he anticipated, Ralph panics and unknowingly releases a virus that travels through the surge protector threatening to infect every other amusement in the arcade, including the candy-coated car racing game Sugar Rush.
Pixar’s touch is evident in this creative story where, like Toy Story, seemingly inanimate objects come to life after the humans disappear. The power bar the arcade units are plugged into mimics New York City’s Grand Central Station. It allows characters to travel between game consoles for events like the Bad-Anon meeting where villains of every ilk reaffirm that they’re bad and that’s good. It’s a subtle comment from characters that recognize their role in the gaming world. But their mantra may give a few young viewers, who seek attention by destructive means, an excuse to continue. The film also carries an anti-bullying message along with one about the importance of teamwork—two themes repeatedly promoted in children’s movies.
Like other Pixar-influenced films, this Disney production contains numerous jokes only adults are likely to appreciate. Many kids in the audience may not even be familiar with arcade characters like Ghost Clyde from Pac-Man, M. Bison and Zangief from Street Fighter and Bowser from Super Mario—or even notice Pong playing in the background. Some potty humor, rude name-calling and belittling remarks (most meant in a humorous vein) may also be disappointing for parents who bring their children to this animation. And while bullets and blasts are to be expected in Hero’s Duty, Felix is repeatedly punched and slapped (for laughs) in the more benign Sugar Rush when he goes in search of the missing Ralph.
While this storyline isn’t Disney’s strongest animation to date, Wreck-It Ralph will still offer plenty of entertainment value for most older children and young teens. However game console developers like Nintendo (that recently reported the company’s first annual loss in history) may be the ones crossing their fingers in hopes that Wreck-It Ralph can jumpstart a resurgence in video game sales.