Ralph fun with joy­ful shtick

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

OU’VE got to love a hero who says: ‘‘I wreck things. Pro­fes­sion­ally.’’

The speaker in Dis­ney’s vis­ually daz­zling, in­ter­mit­tently funny Wreck-It Ralph is a de­pressed videogame vil­lain who yearns to be the good guy. As in, good enough to make this movie an ar­cade ver­sion of Toy Story.

De­spite a promis­ing start, the movie doesn’t rise that high. Af­ter work, when the kids have gone home, Ralph (voiced by the bril­liant John C. Reilly), the des­ig­nated de­stroyer in a retro ’80s-style video game sim­i­lar to Don­key Kong, sleeps in a dump – lit­er­ally – and re­sents the pen­t­house partiers led by the game’s hero, Felix (Jack McBrayer), who won’t even in­vite him to a 30thanniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of their elec­tronic uni­verse.

Ralph re­sorts to hang­ing out in glum sup­port groups with other vil­lains such as the ghost from Pac-Man (pos­si­bly in the same ther­a­pist’s of­fice fre­quented by The In­cred­i­bles).

Ralph is funny and en­dear­ing, and the film’s 3-D an­i­ma­tion is spec­tac­u­lar, but the movie goes wrong when Ralph jumps into an­other game, Sugar Rush, a Willy Wonka-fied Oz with loads of candy puns and a sac­cha­rine hero­ine, Vanel­lope von Sch­weetz (voiced in a grat­ingly cutesy style by Sarah Sil­ver­man).

Vanel­lope is a fel­low out­cast hand­i­capped by an e-birth de­fect: She’s a ‘‘glitch’’, mean­ing her avatar fades in and out, and from here on in the script flick­ers, too. The story line, ini­tially about Ralph’s quest for a medal (which wouldn’t seem to re­verse his pariah sta­tus any­way), is clouded as Vanel­lope pre­pares for a race in a home­made car fash­ioned out of candy.

More­over, her char­ac­ter is ir­ri­tat­ing – an unattrac­tive combo of pan­der­ing and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. Buzz Lightyear didn’t need to carry a mes­sage. He was just funny.

Vanel­lope’s con­di­tion re­minds us that we’re all spe­cial and noth­ing can ever stand in our way: Candy­land meets Clicheville. Lots of other stale treats are on of­fer, too: Jane Lynch does her stan­dard tough-talk shtick as a char­ac­ter from a mil­i­tary shoot-’em-up game, the big race looks like a girlied-up Cars and McBrayer’s lines sound like they’re straight out of 30 Rock. Time to freshen up the act a lit­tle.

Still, if you’re six or un­der, this will all seem new. And amid all the bor­ing crash­ing and chas­ing and slap­stick, there are some bril­liant flashes of wit.

Vanel­lope, with her feisty one-lin­ers, hoodie, miniskirt and striped tights, is like Poochie, The Simp­sons’ surf­ing dog ‘‘with at­ti­tude’’, who wickedly il­lus­trated cor­po­rate pan­der­ing to kids.

Ralph has a line whose self-ev­i­dent lame­ness would have been mocked on The Simp­sons, but here it’s ac­tu­ally de­liv­ered in earnest to cheer up Vanel­lope: ‘‘You’re a win­ner! And you’re adorable! And ev­ery­body loves an adorable win­ner!’’

Yes, and let’s not keep score and give ev­ery­one who plays the game the same prize af­ter­ward. Start­ing with this movie, which gets a big blue rib­bon la­belled: ‘‘En­thu­si­as­tic par­tic­i­pant.’’

opens on Box­ing Day.

Ralph and Vanel­lope Von Sch­weetz in the video game world of Sugar Rush in a scene from an­i­mated fam­ily romp

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