'Ralph' wins with old-school heart and high-tech fun

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Entertainment,Movies,Kelly Jane Torrance

There's something slightly odd about an homage to old-school video games that's presented in the latest 3-D technology.

But what else could Walt Disney Animation Studios do? Teenagers might find some retro charm in playing a translation of "Space Invaders" on their iPads, but younger kids want their animated heroes to look just like the action figures that are sold in stores before the films they appear in have even hit theaters.

"Wreck-It Ralph," in fact, delivers so many fond memories of the '80s, it's possible parents will be more entertained than their children. Fortunately, "Ralph" is a tightly written, fast-moving bit of fun that will appeal to both groups.

On screen
'Wreck-It Ralph'
3 out of 4 stars
Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer
Director: Rich Moore
Rated: PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence
Running time: 108 minutes

"My name's Ralph, and I'm a bad guy," the title character says by way of introduction -- though he pronounces it almost as a question. The fact is, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is tired of being the bad guy. For 30 years, Ralph has been trashing a high-rise apartment, only to watch Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) receive kudos -- medals, kisses, pies -- for putting it back together again.

The destructive Ralph decides the only way to get respect in his little corner of the arcade is to leave it: He must enter another game and win a medal of his own. Then he'll be one of the good guys and won't have to live in lonely solitude on a dump created by his own handiwork.

Ralph enters the first-person shooter "Hero's Duty" and soon gets what he's after -- and more. A nasty virus enters his escape pod and sends Ralph reeling to another game in the arcade, "Sugar Rush." The sweet denizens of this game will be destroyed if the virus manages to replicate. That includes Ralph's new -- and only -- friend, the "Sugar Rush" racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).

The various worlds of disparate video games are hilariously brought to life by Rich Moore in his first feature film. (He also voices one of the bad guys.) Kids will love watching the amusing things that happen in the "Sugar Rush" race; their parents will laugh as they see Q*bert and his family, homeless since their game has been unplugged, begging for quarters. The only real discordant note, in fact, in this family-friendly flick is the use of Rihanna's suggestive song "Shut Up and Drive."

Reilly seems made for voice work. He turns his 8-bit Ralph into a man with a 32-bit heart. But as "Wreck-It Ralph" proves, worth shouldn't be measured in the number of pixels in which you're displayed.

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