American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Wreck-It Ralph," the latest Disney animated feature for families, begins with a creative brainstorm: The movie occurs mostly inside the worlds of several arcade-style video games, providing an excuse for the backgrounds, ground rules and characters to constantly reinvent themselves. The title is inspired by its hero, one of those clumsy, misunderstood big guys who dreams only of being loved.
For Wreck-It Ralph, this will never happen in the universe he inhabits, the Fix-It Felix Jr. video game. Shown in animation only a generation advanced from Pac-Man, Ralph is a muscular freak who has only one function, using his fists and feet to pound holes in a high-rise apartment building. Then it's Fix-It Felix Jr., a handyman with unlimited skills, to the rescue. Winning the hearts of the Nicelanders, the residents of the building, Felix is regularly invited to their high-class parties, while Ralph is relegated every night to the town junk yard.
Ralph's depression is invaluably conveyed by the voice dubbing of John C. Reilly, who can sound put-upon almost by his very nature. Felix, voiced by Jack McBrayer, from "30 Rock," is cheerful, high-spirited and helpful, even if trapped in the identity of Goody Two-Shoes.
After decades of this existence, Ralph yearns to escape, and that's the excuse for the movie to break free from the sameness of its game. Ralph journeys through power cables and a surge projector to a place named Grand Game Central, where characters can visit. Warning: Although the rules allow them to die casually and frequently inside their native games, if they die outside, it's curtains.