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Movie Review: 'Wreck-It Ralph' -- 3.5 stars

Ralph, left, voiced by John C. Reilly in

Ralph, left, voiced by John C. Reilly in a scene from "Wreck-It Ralph." Photo Credit: Ralph, left, voiced by John C. Reilly in a scene from "Wreck-It Ralph."

Wreck-It Ralph
3.5 stars
Directed by Rich Moore
Voiced by John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch
Rated PG

With the witty and clever "Wreck-It Ralph," Disney animation proper is inching closer to the quality of its ultra-talented stepbrother Pixar. Of course, that's not surprising, given that longtime Pixar chief John Lasseter - now the chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios - was an executive producer here.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a love letter to video games. That's a cliche, of course, but if it ever genuinely applied to anything, it's this movie.

The title character Ralph (John C. Reilly) is a video game bad guy in a world where - like the toys in "Toy Story" - the pixels are alive and self-aware. They hang out in the arcade after the lights go out.

Ralph, when he's not on the job as a villain, is actually a pretty nice guy. He's tired of being the baddie and disliked by everyone in his game. He even goes to villains' group therapy (with the likes of the ghost Clyde from "Pac-Man" and Bowser from "Mario Bros."), where they recite their mantra: "I am bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There is no one I'd rather be than me."

For once, Ralph just wants to be his game's hero and win the medal, which normally goes to the Super Mario-like Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer).

When that seems impossible, Ralph abandons his game for the shooter, "Hero's Duty," in order to win a prize.

Then, he's jettisoned to the candy-coated junior racing game "Sugar Rush," with one of the unrelenting baddies from "Hero's Duty." Along the way, Ralph gets caught up in a big race in "Sugar Rush," alongside spunky racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a real treat for video game fans of any generation. You'll see characters from classic platform games like Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as vintage sprites such as the bartender from "Tapper."

The film features a fun, compelling story, but the cleverness of the video game mashup is the real attraction here.

And gamers everywhere will certainly have a new appreciation for those evil characters that throw barrels at you.

***

"Paperman"
This short film, which shows before "Wreck-It Ralph," is a beautifully animated story about a man who is smitten by a lady he meets, and the lengths he'll go to find her again. Directed by John Kahrs, a veteran animator who worked on films such as "The Incredibles" and "Tangled," the story is a charmer, but the real star here is the stunning black-and-white visuals.
 

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