At the Movies: Flight, Wreck-It Ralph

Sadly, “The Man With The Iron Fists” did not screen around here. A disturbing trend that I’ve whined about before, apparently to no avail.

Instead you’ll have to settle for movies about a pilot with a drinking problem and a video game bad guy who wants to go straight. They’re decent films despite not having Lucy Liu or a man with iron fists in them.

Flight

On the surface, “Flight” is another movie about a person refusing to deal with their addiction problem until faced with a dramatic, life-changing moment. What makes this version soar is that Denzel Washington plays the person in question.

Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting airline pilot. He’s a gifted aviator despite his bad habits. As the film opens, Whip has overslept after a night of drinking and sex with one of his flight attendants. He arrives in time for a flight that is set to take off in a rainstorm.

Whip greets his passengers while mixing vodka and orange juice out of their sight. After punching through some severe turbulence the plane settles on course and Whip takes a nap.

He’s awoken from his sleep when a mechanical failure sends the plane into a steep dive. Whip quickly take command of the situation and manages to crash-land the plane with minimal loss of life. Whip’s amazing performance in the cockpit makes him a hero — and he’ll stay one as long as word of his drinking doesn’t become public  knowledge.

Directed by Robert  Zemeckis, “Flight” features a gripping, harrowing plane-crash scene that did wonders for my already heightened fear of flying. From that exciting beginning, however, it turns into a familiar tale as Whip refuses to admit he has a problem all the while wallowing in booze. Fortunately, Washington is such a charismatic actor that the story remains compelling. Whip isn’t an admirable person yet Washington makes you feel for him.

The film also benefits from several strong supporting performances, most notably John Goodman, who for the second time in weeks (see “Argo”), takes a small role and steals the show.

Wreck-It Ralph

The new Disney animated feature “Wreck-It Ralph” takes you behind the screen to the secret world of video games. In other words, it’s a video game version of “Toy Story,” with many favorite characters putting in an appearance.

And while it has heart and impressive animation, “Ralph” lacks the wit and engaging characters of the Pixar story. It starts out promising but gets too cutesy-poo. It’s cute and pretty and kids will probably go for it but adults may find it a bit too childish.

John C. Reilly gives voice to Ralph, the villain in a “Donkey Kong”-style video game called “Fix-It Felix.” Tired of being Felix’s (Jack McBrayer) punching bag, tired of living in a dump and just wanting a little respect, Ralph leaves home to become a hero in some other game.

He manages to win a medal in a futuristic war game but before he can get home to show everyone his success, he winds up in the “Candyland”-like racing game “Sugar Rush.”  Here he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a young wannabe racer who is also a glitch in the system.

Ralph agrees to help Vanellope win the race even though everyone in the game is against her. Meanwhile Felix and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from the war game are trying to track down Ralph. Felix needs him to return to his game before the arcade owner pulls the plug and Calhoun is trying to find a dangerous bug that Ralph accidentally brought with him from her game.

“Wreck It Ralph” is a decent animated feature; the animation is especially nice. The film’s only glitch, and it’s a big one, is the glitch itself. Vanellope von Schweetz is the most annoying animated character since Tow Mater. So the kids will probably love her. But boy, did I find that child tiresome. I didn’t think it  possible for a single character to be both too sickly sweet and annoyingly sassy at the same time.

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