Wreck-It Ralph 1.0 stars

Wreck-It Ralph movie poster

What a concept: children's playthings with human neuroses. Oh, wait, this isn't Toy Story? Nope, just a Disney rehash of same, substituting video game characters for action figures. You know - it's what the kids are into these days, even if there is a hefty dose of Gen-X nostalgia to rope in the grownups. (Our heroes populate an arcade where kids go to dump quarters into the sort of 8-bit retro jobs you can play online for free.) And like an arcade game, it's laced with cheat codes. Professional bad guy Wreck-It Ralph knows that being a bad guy is just his job, the sort of thing he can leave behind at the end of the day. But the corresponding good guys aren't in on the secret, and treat him like he's actually bad - making him live in the dump, not inviting him to parties, etc. Alas, he can't point out this bit of flawed storytelling, so instead, he sets off to get a medal from some other game, just to prove his worth. Out in the wider gaming world, the arbitrary discrepancies persist: one heroine can't help being hard-hearted; she was programmed with a tragic backstory. Another...well, suffice it to say that Disney seems eager to take a break from princess culture, and remains comfortable with breaking the rules of its own universe. But quibbles aside, the whole thing is bright and slick and full of clever nods to the video game universe, and there are jokes and thrills aplenty to keep the kiddies entertained while their parents get misty-eyed over Q*bert. With the voices of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, and Jane Lynch, among others. 2012.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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