It's hard out there for a video game villain--always being attacked, never given the benefit of the doubt, and forever pigeonholed. Such is the fate of Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), the bad guy in an old-school arcade game. With gigantic hands, a round face, and overalls strapped over one shoulder, Ralph resembles a human Donkey Kong, and after 30 years of his smash-and-growl routine, he has grown tired of his station in life. At a therapy session for like-minded scoundrels including Super Mario Bros.' Bowser and Street Fighter's Zangief and M. Bison, Ralph wonders aloud why he can’t ever be the hero. A Pac-Man ghost responds, "We can’t change who we are." With bouncy CG that's given greater depth by 3-D, director Rich Moore's film blends the secret-lives-of-toys reality of Toy Story with the self-actualization vibe of Bolt, with the former proving far more electric than the latter. There’s an invigorating energy to the first 20 minutes, with Reilly's ho-hum-glum narration hilariously establishing Ralph's discontent, and Ralph’s travels through the game world marked by one winning cameo after another, including 2-D icons Pac-Man (detested by Ralph) and Q*Bert (now homeless). Thus, it's disappointing to find Wreck-It Ralph squandering the opportunities it sets up, retreating into static be-yourself territory when Ralph gets stranded in a cart-racing game with a smart-talking teen (Sarah Silverman) to save. Wreck-It Ralph's themes don't develop by branching out in wild, unpredictable ways; instead, they become narrower and more monotonous, perhaps replicating the fundamental nature of '80s-era games, which were predicted on basic, repetitive action.
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