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‘Wreck-it Ralph’

by Giovanni Fazio

Quick review: This is the zaniest, sharpest animated film I’ve seen since “The Incredibles.” I thought there might be a reason for that, and sure enough, director Rich Moore — like Brad Bird of “The Incredibles” — is a joke-writing alumnus of “The Simpsons” (and “Futurama” as well).

The premise is rather like “Toy Story”: that characters in arcade games have lives that go on after your coins run out. Ralph is the heavy in a classic 1980s-style game called “Fix-it Felix,” an apelike ogre who trashes the place while its hero repairs everything with his magic hammer. Ralph is tired of being bad, though, and his quest to become a hero in another game leads him through violent sci-fi shooter “Hero’s Duty” (for which he is woefully unprepared) and pastel candyland racer “Sugar Rush,” where he befriends the glitchy Vanellope and also unwittingly sets off an in-game alien apocalypse.

There are loads of in-jokes here for hard-core gamers, but also a nice parody of “Prometheus,” spot-on satire of the cliched differences between boys’ and girls’ games, great slapstick and more; the only downside is that a lot of the slyer jokes have gone missing in the Japanese dubbed version, although the characterizations by the J-cast are on the mark. Parents will easily enjoy this as much as kids.