Q*bert, his game long since unplugged, is a gibberish-spouting panhandler. When he’s done racking up combos in Street Fighter, Zangief finds solace at Bad-Anon, where video game villains share their vulnerabilities. For those of us raised in the Mario Age, the first few minutes of Wreck-It Ralph are like a video game Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with everyone from Sonic to Bowser stopping by. But once its nostalgic, clever opening is out of the way, Wreck-It Ralph gets significantly less fun: It’s just Toy Story in an arcade, in which Bad-Anon attendee Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) decides he wants to be loved—so, looking for glory, he leaves his own game, Fix-It Felix Jr., first venturing into a Halo-esque shooter, Hero’s Duty, before finding himself in a Mario Kart–inspired Sugar Rush, where he meets adorable/obnoxious kid racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).
In addition to Silverman’s fantastic voice work, there’s a ton of great detail in Wreck-It Ralph—pixel-based architecture, jerky animation that emulates old Nintendo games, a vault password that’s “up up down down left right left right B A start.” But everything else is boring and bland: Characters are set on a simple trajectory, then perfunctorily march toward their destinies. Had Wreck-It Ralph been a video game—where you could make Ralph do something interesting, or actually play Sugar Rush and Fix-It Felix? That would’ve been something.