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Video game actually teaches kids values

When I review movies that appeal to children, such as animated films, I tend to examine them all the more closely for the messages they teach to impressionable young minds.

Long gone are the days when a parent or grandparent could assume a cartoon fit for children. Too many animated films, and especially a string of them made by Disney in the ’80s and ’90s, either toy carelessly with occult content or play off a child’s naturally rebellious nature, only inflaming the problem, rather than teaching valuable character lessons.

At our home, we’ve even taken to referring to films that teach parents are fools – and kids must therefore break the chains of their overprotective mothers and fathers – as “Disney-fied” movies.

Walt Disney would probably roll over in his grave to know we use his name in the derogatory, but then, he would be rolling over in his grave to see some of the movies his company has made in recent years.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to see Walt’s company returning to Walt’s values in the outstanding film earlier this year called “Brave.”

And so, too, was I pleasantly surprised by the upstanding lessons taught in the engaging new film in theaters, “Wreck-It Ralph.”

The hero in “Wreck-It Ralph” is a video arcade character who plays a villain in his game, but at heart is a decent guy, who, after hours, feels lonely and ostracized by the “good guys” in his video game world.

To earn his way into their good graces, Ralph decides he’ll get respect if he crosses over to another game that will allow him to win a “hero” medal. Then, he believes, the good guys will allow him to join their after-work celebrations.

“Only good guys win medals,” Ralph is scolded. “You’re just a bad guy who wrecks the building.”

But on his journey to demonstrate he’s really a good guy, Ralph discovers medals, accolades and praise are not the marks of good guys, but of the selfish.

“The selfish man,” the movie warns, “is like a dog chasing a cautionary tale.”

In the end, and at the risk of spoilers, Ralph discovers that service and self-sacrifice are the marks of a “good guy,” and that being a hero to those nearest you is far more noble than being awarded prizes and medals.

As for the quality of the “Wreck-It Ralph,” it can drag a bit at times and seem frenetic at others, but rich, fully animated environments in dazzling colors help keep the audience engaged. Some very cute voice acting by comedienne Sarah Silverman and a touch of nostalgia for the old video games like Pac-Man, Street Fighter and Qbert help keep adults entertained as well. It’s not a Disney classic, but it is a fun, enjoyable and well-made movie.

I would caution that there’s some juvenile, scatological humor and name calling that the youngest of audiences may repeat around the house, so Mom and Dad may want to avoid taking children too young to see “Wreck-It Ralph.” There’s also the needless inclusion of “Satan” among the villains in the film, but he’s a very minor character with only two or three lines.

Those cautions aside, bravo to Disney for redeeming its ways with a string of solid films, including “Brave,” “Mars Needs Moms,” “Tangled,” “Secretariat” and now “Wreck-It Ralph,” among others.

Hmm. Sounds like my family may need to rethink what “Disney-fied” means after all.

Content advisory: