‘Ralph’ delights noobs and pros alike

Walt Disney Animation Studios plugs into the big screen with “Wreck-It Ralph,” an animated film featuring the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, and Jane Lynch, in a video-game inspired coming-of-age comedy that earns bonus points for adults and kids alike. Ralph (Riley) is a villain in a vintage arcade game called Fix-It, Felix Jr. who grows tired of playing bad guy to titular protagonist and ever-positive Felix Jr. (McBrayer). To prove his worth as a good-guy, Ralph adventures into another game to win a medal, but is quickly snarled by his own thug-headedness.

Inadvertently spreading a virus into a popular racing game, Ralph’s actions put the entire arcade at risk; he must team up with Felix Jr. and other video game characters to save the day.

The movie has plenty of heart. It’s emotional where it should be. John C. Reilly has never been so empathetic. He’s entirely convincing as Ralph, the bad guy who’s trying to change his ways. His relationship with glitchy, speed racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman) seems improbable, but works perfectly in the playfully absurd animated world.

Jane Lynch portrays a tough-talking, alien-blasting video game vixen who spurns the hilarious advances of McBrayer’s Felix Jr. Each of the members of the all-star voice cast delivers some great moments.

Though product placement was heavy on candy brands, real-life video game characters we’d expect to see, like those from the Mario Brothers franchise, Street Fighter and Pac-Man were all present. Video-gamers will delight in the references to vintage arcade games Q*Bert, Tapper and Qix.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is a kids’ movie. Let’s make no bones about it. If you go to a showing (especially on the weekend) you’ll be in a packed house filled with little humans.

I knew this going in, and I was a bit apprehensive, wrought with fear that distractions in the form of crying infants and errant toddlers might ruin the movie going experience. After all, memories of the kid version of me in a movie theater are still fresh in my mind (thanks for powering through it, Mom).

But I was wrong. It was a packed house, and full of kids. But they didn’t cry, squelch or mill about. They sat still, with eyes glued to the screen, entirely engaged by the movie.

It’s a testament to the superior visuals and fantastic storytelling in “Ralph.” Many of the great moments are rooted in video game nostalgia, but as the kids’ reactions prove, you don’t have to be a nerd to appreciate the film.

In fact, some of the games in the movie, like 1982’s Frogger, are ten times older than the three-year-olds at the screening.

And while the kids very much behaved like adults, it’s movies like this that let the adults feel like kids again. Director Rich Moore (“The Simpsons,” “Futurama”) sprinkles a handful of subtle visual puns throughout the movie that parents with kids-in-tow will get a kick out of stumbling upon.

I’m happy to report that my fears of rambunctious kid disruptions were unfounded, shadowy glimpses of a cranky old man I’m trying to stave off becoming anytime soon.

The movie made me feel like a kid again, which is awesome, ‘cause being a kid was pretty great.

The moral to the kids is: “You don’t have to win everything to be the good guy, just be nice,” and in our hyper-competitive world, that’s a pretty sweet sentiment.