“I’m going to wreck it!” That’s the catchy battle cry that Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) shouts before he starts pounding down on an 8-bit video game roof of an apartment complex. In reality — or the complex reality of a movie about video game characters whose lives outside of their arcade cabinets don’t necessarily mimic the roles they inhabit during their day jobs — Ralph’s a pretty nice guy, well-meaning and unhappy with the stigma that comes with being his video game’s main villain. Ostracized by the apartment tenants, Ralph comes to find that a celebration’s being held for Felix, the game’s hero, in honor of the game’s 30th anniversary. Unwilling to accept what others think of him, Ralph makes a wager and goes on a mission to get his very own medal.
Getting the medal isn’t easy, and Ralph ventures to the first-person shooter arcade game Hero’s Duty, where players fight through swarms of alien bugs en route to the top of the tower. Ralph gets his medal only to lead trouble to the sweet and cavity-inducing world Sugar Rush, where he meets the glitch Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a plucky little kart racer who has troubles fitting in. Ralph and von Schweetz build a relationship in order to get Ralph’s medal back, and Ralph gets to feel like a hero.
Being a hero isn’t always easy, and Ralph is new to the game. When King Candy (Alan Tudyk) tells Ralph the consequences that could come from letting players control a glitch, Ralph crushes von Schweetz’s dream, losing the only friend he has. It’s a difficult moment that makes Ralph question whether he has what it really takes to be a hero, and when another opportunity presents itself, Ralph goes above and beyond showing you can’t always judge a book by its cover, even if the cover’s title is “Bad Guy.” It’s a great family movie with good voice acting by an ensemble cast that’s less about being recognized and more about owning their parts. The computer animation is simple and vibrant, and the clever use of familiar video game characters makes this an enjoyable treat for parents and their kids.