In theatres today: Wreck-It Ralph

Guest film critic Todd Brown reviews one of the most anticipated family flicks of the year.

Neatly balancing 8-bit nostalgia for mom and dad with entertainment value for the kids, Disney’s latest animated feature dives into the world of video games to deliver a surprisingly heartfelt message in support of diversity and loving yourself as you are.

The premise
Ralph is tired of his life and, honestly, he has good reason to be. As the villain of real life classic video game Fix It Felix Jr., Ralph has spent every day for the past 30 years smashing an apartment building in Niceville so that the game’s titular hero can rush in and put everything right again. Felix is loved by the citizens of the game. But Ralph? He’s forced to live out in the dump. And he’s had enough. And so, leaving the confines of Fix It Felix Jr. behind, Ralph sets out to explore the other games in his arcade and prove to the residents of Niceville that he’s more than just a villain. Things don’t go as planned, of course, and soon Ralph finds himself teamed up with a young character from the (fictitious) candy-racing game Sugar Rush as she tries to overcome her own weaknesses and gain acceptance by her own community.

What we loved
Don’t let the video game setting fool you. As clever as the plentiful video game references are — a host of classic characters appear throughout the film — the setting is really nothing more than window dressing for this collection of immensely likeable and subtly drawn characters. Ralph, as voiced by John C Reilly, is a loveable schlub, an unappreciated guy in a dead-end job who has made the unfortunate mistake of defining himself — and allowing others to do so as well — by his work. And as Ralph’s relationship with the precocious Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) grows we quickly learn that Vanellope’s issues mirror Ralph’s own, the young girl ostracized by the community that has labeled her differences glitches and tossed her aside.

Dig down into this one and what you get is the story of an unlikely pair of friends forced to the margins of society while learning their own worth. That’s as worthwhile a message as you’re ever to find in a theatre. That it’s delivered in a clever, entertaining package just makes it all the better.

Canadian rating
G (General Audience) — Appropriate for all ages

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