Wreck-It Ralph is like Toy Story for arcade games: witty and heartwarming. In Wreck-it Ralph, when video arcades close the characters come to life. They travel from their game portals along subway lines (extension cords) to the major power outlet of “Game Central Station' where security guards — excuse me, "surge protectors" — perform random security screenings.

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) always gets screened, and it drives him crazy. He's the villain in an old arcade game called Fix-it Felix Jr., a shining anachronistic relic in the current age of uber-violent first-person shooters, stunning graphics and interactive pseudo-games like Dance Dance Revolution. Fellow video game characters run in fear from Ralph, and the building he spends all day tearing down doesn’t even invite him to the game’s 30th anniversary party in honor of its eponymous character, Fix-it Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer). Felix is the “hero” and Ralph is the “bad guy,” but in Ralph’s eyes he’s just doing his job, and it’s a tough pill to swallow. Ralph goes to counseling sessions with other video game villains like Bowser of Super Mario Bros. and Pac-man’s Clyde, where all these iconic, animated villains wrestle with their identity issues.

Sick of being the bad guy, Ralph leaves his game and enters Hero’s Duty, a new first-person shooter in which he fights an insect-alien invasion as a soldier under the command of the surly Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Not surprisingly, he stumbles and struggles through the game, eventually steering an escape pod out of Hero’s Duty, through Game Central Station and into Sugar Rush, a kart-racing game set in a Candyland-like world. Once in Sugar Rush, Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a racer who has been disowned from the game for being a “glitch.” After some early disagreements, Ralph agrees to help von Schweetz earn her rightful place in the game, and together these two characters fight to be embraced by their peers.

It’s not all roses and rainbows, though. Ralph’s departure from his game is called “going turbo,” based on the tragic decision of an old arcade character named Turbo, who left his game to inhabit another, more popular game. “Going turbo” has grave consequences, and Turbo’s decision caused both games to be shut down for not working properly, putting a slew of video game characters out of work. When an arcade gamer tries to play Fix-it Felix, Jr. only to find that Wreck-it Ralph is not there, Fix-it Felix, Jr. receives the closest thing video games have to a death sentence: an “Out of Order” sign. If Ralph isn’t brought back in time, it could mean the end of Fix-it Felix, Jr. forever.

For all of its stunning visuals — the old video game characters whose stilted, robotic movements create an engaging juxtaposition to those of the graceful, newer ones, and Disney’s fine-comb animation versus the blocky arcade view — the greatest strength of Wreck-it Ralph is its plot, which exhibits outstanding character development with logical character motives and clear plot points that fit together cleanly to produce a crisp, eloquent story — a rarity in this day and age.

The story of self-acceptance may be a familiar one, but it hasn’t been told this well in a while.

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