"Wreck-It Ralph," a kid's version of "Tron," suggests all of the electronic characters in arcade video games have their own personal lives when no one's shoving quarters into the machine's slot.
Their 8-bits-and-pieces lives change when the villain of "Wreck-It Ralph" (voiced by John C. Reilly) decides he wants to be the hero just once. His quest to win a hero's medal sends him on a trek through various other games in the arcade.
Ralph's travels brings him to the game Sugar Rush -- think Candy Land meets Mario Racer -- where he helps the impish Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a glitchy character who wants to win the game's cart race. This mismatched pair find that their journey is not about being selfish, but to find joy and stick together.
Director Rich Moore has done a masterful job of blending all of the varied degree of visuals that come with arcade games. Life in Ralph's game is a little blocky and the characters have choppy movements. Once the action moves to a high-tech military game, the graphics vastly improve. Moore blends these different game looks to create a perfect union.
The screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston is a mix of the sweet story of two misfits finding their way and an assortment of jabs at the video game world. Q*bert panhandles after the plug gets pulled on his game. Sonic the Hedgehog offers a warning about how there's no rest for a character when a life is lost outside the game.
The comical look at the game world is only a minor part of the film -- a part that should have been given more time.
This is a likable movie that will entertain old and young because of the wide range of video games that serve as the backdrop for the stories.
And long after this movie has gone "game over," Silverman's voice work as Vanellope will remain at the top of the high score listings. Generally, actors merely give a voice to an animated character. Silverman gives her character energy, life and a sweet charm. Her performance is like dark chocolate -- it's generally sweet but has just enough bite to make it special.
The combination of Silverman's work, the colorful assortment of visuals, the nostalgic feel and the sweet story makes "Wreck-It Ralph" a movie worth paying a stack of quarters to see.
There's even a bonus round. The short movie "Paperman" is shown with the feature and is a beautiful, Chaplin-esque tale of love and paper planes from director John Kahrs.
"Wreck-It Ralph," rated PG for video game violence. Stars the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer. Directed by Rich Moore. Running time: 108 minutes. Grade: B
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559)441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.