By Forrest Hartman
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and digital download
Filmmakers produced such a standout crop of animated movies in 2012 that the Oscar race is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable in years. Five movies are competing for best animated feature on Feb. 24, and most of them – including “Wreck It Ralph” – have landed major pre-Oscar honors.
Although “Ralph” lost the best animated feature Golden Globe to Pixar’s “Brave,” it took the top prize from the National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association, and it’s still very much in contention for an Academy Award. Ultimately, awards don’t mean much to anyone but the filmmakers, but they are useful in underscoring the quality of a movie, and “Wreck it Ralph” is one of the most inventive animated efforts in recent memory.
The story is set in the land of video games and focuses on the fictitious title character (voiced by John C. Reilly). Despite being the star of a long-running game, Ralph is dissatisfied because he’s tired of being the bad guy. During the day, his job is to smash a tall building and destroy the contents. In the meantime, the hero of the day, Fix it Felix, makes repairs and earns medals. The work wouldn’t be so bad except that the other characters in the game treat Ralph like a pariah even once the arcade is closed.
In an effort to prove that he can do more than wreck things, Ralph leaves his game intent on earning a hero’s medal elsewhere, but he does so at great personal risk. Although a character can regenerate if killed within his or her own game, death in any other environment is fatal.
Co-writer and director Rich Moore makes countless references to real-life video games, particularly old-school gems like Pac-Man and Q*Bert, and that’s part of the fun. Parents may not be fully engaged in Ralph’s plight, but they’re sure to enjoy reminiscing about games they played as a child. Youngsters, in the meantime, should have a blast with the gorgeous computer-animated visuals.
“Wreck it Ralph” moves slower than some of this year’s other animated Oscar contenders, but it’s among the most original in terms of plotting and characterization. Because of that, it’s worth a look whether or not Oscar voters give it top honors.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include the animated theatrical short “Paperman.”