Wreck-It Ralph

“Wreck-It Ralph” is big fun for gamers of all ages. Gen-Xers, Gen-Y, boomers & little kids will find much to love in this Pixar-like animated feature.

Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, is the guy who wrecks things in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix. After 30 years, he’s tired of being the bad guy. Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer, is the one who gets all the love and, at the end of each successful play of the game, a medal.

Ralph wants a medal and seeks one in a neighboring game in the arcade called Hero’s Duty where he encounters Calhoun, a violent babe with a killer bod, voiced by Jane Lynch. Once he gets the medal he escapes to another game called Sugar Rush, where he meets up with an extremely cute kid, Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman. This is where the film’s plot really takes off.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is inspired by and has references to most of the great video games of the last three decades. Some of the film’s elements call to mind “Monsters, Inc.” Ralph is similar to Sully from that 2001 Pixar classic. Vanellope is not unlike any the three “Powerpuff Girls,” a Cartoon Network hit series from a decade or so ago.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is almost a Pixar film. It looks like a Pixar film. Executive producer is Pixar’s John Lasseter. There’s a memorable short cartoon before the movie. The credits mention help from the “Pixar brain trust.” And, as with Pixar films, the credits contain a list of “production babies.” Really, the only thing that keeps it from being a Pixar film is the absence of the bouncing desk lamp.

As with most Pixar films, the performances of the voice actors are uniformly excellent. The four mentioned previously, along with Alan Tudyk as King Candy, form one of the best voice ensembles in recent memory.

Among my favorite visual jokes in the film: the cops in Sugar Rush (a world populated by sweet treats) are doughnuts.

“Wreck-It Ralph” is both nostalgic and fresh, at the same time. It gets the high score for this weekend.

“Carnage”—[No Bodily Harm, Just Bruised Egos]

When a stage play is brought to the screen, especially a play with just one basic setting and only four characters, making it work as a movie can be tricky. “Carnage” works.

The most important credit goes to the writer, Yasmina Reza, whose play “God of Carnage” won the ’09 Tony for best play. With tweaks from director Roman Polanski, her movie script brings us relatable situations and characters direct from our modern day lives.

Next, let’s credit Polanski for taking this one long continuous scene and making it visually interesting. Set in a New York apartment living room (with side trips to the kitchen, bathroom and hallway), the story benefits from good shot selection. The direction gives us varied angles, close ups and wide shots, without calling attention to itself.

Of course, the actors are ones who bring the script to life. Kate Winslet and Christopher Waltz are one couple. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are the other. All four deliver excellent performances.

The two couples visit together after their sons have been involved in a playground incident. One couple wants the other to apologize for their child’s aggression. As the discussion continues, other subjects are addressed. Food is shared and later, booze. The couples engage in verbal warfare, first with the opposite couple and then with their own spouses.

Many of us who are married with children have been in similar situations. You want to be nice, but sometimes tensions build. In “Carnage,” there are moments that will make you uncomfortable and there are moments that will make you laugh out loud. You may shift your allegiance and identification from one character to another (and maybe back again).

I like “Carnage.” Despite its being one 80-minute long conversation, it is not boring. Does “Carnage” have a message or two? Maybe. That’s for you and your spouse to discuss on the drive home from the theatre.