If you looked at Disney and the sequels this studio has produced in the 90’s and early part of this century, you would notice they didn’t put much time or effort into them. Almost all of them went straight-to-video and wound up sitting on shelves in living rooms, waiting to be watched halfheartedly by kids as their parent or babysitter got work done around the house. You certainly never considered any of these films for award contention. Although your opinion of them will vary; and the value of these sequels or prequels is debatable. Even Tom Hanks felt that way about Toy Story 2. Once a possible direct-to-DVD film, Hanks insisted this be given a theatrical release and now it is more favored critically than the original.
It’s no easy feat to make a movie in general, but to make a sequel to one that is beloved and have it be as good, or possibly better, is an almost insurmountable ambition. Our love of something makes us hyper-critical of anything that tries to surpass it. I really liked Wreck-It Ralph and the emotional resonance of its characters. I especially enjoyed the video game element and the old game references scattered in the background. So I was excited to hear that there was finally going to be a sequel involving the internet. I hoped maybe it would include video game characters we didn’t get to see last time, due to rights issues. Instead it goes in a whole different direction. Giving us what the internet is used for 90% of the time. Social media posts and shopping.
In Ralph Breaks The Internet, directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, six years have passed and Ralph (John C. Reilly) has come to terms with his life as a video game villain. He enjoys spending his time with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and getting into mischief around the arcade. Vanellope is growing bored of being the best racer on her game Sugar Rush and is looking for more excitement. When an accident breaks down Vanellope’s game, Ralph helps her by venturing into the internet and looking for a part to fix it before Mr. Litwak gets rid of the arcade game for good. Once online they discover a world of possibilities filled with viral videos and pop-up ads. Ralph and Vanellope need to make their way through this labyrinth of distractions and get the part before time runs out.
The online world in Ralph Breaks The Internet is very colorful and cheerful. It’s depicted as a city with buildings representing websites. The more popular the website or search engine, the bigger the building. Which is why the Google building is so massive. There’s also a small scene involving the dark web, but the movie doesn’t dwell too long on it. This is a PG movie after all.
One of the most important websites in the movie is called BuzzzTube. It’s the site that all users seem to gravitate to for their funny videos and social commentary. If you are a viral sensation, it’s also the best way to make money, with the help of an algorithm named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson). Yesss agrees to help Ralph in his quest to purchase the part he needs. Meanwhile Vanellope comes across a woman named Shank (Gal Gadot), a skilled racer in a game called Slaughter Race. Shank convinces Vanellope to follow her dream, but Vanellope is worried this could ruin her friendship with Ralph. After a series of mishaps and misunderstandings, Ralph and Vanellope are faced with something that threatens to destroy the entire world wide web.
I enjoyed getting to see Ralph and Vanellope together again. Their chemistry is built on what strange odd-balls they are, but also how much they care about each other. Having them traverse this unknown landscape together is a fun adventure. It’s probably similar to when your no-so-tech-savvy grandparents first attempted to use the internet, except all the websites and ads are bigger-than-life and personified.
The introduction of new characters gives the film some fresh perspective, but I do wish it wasn’t at the expense of the original characters. Felix and Sergeant Calhoun are practically non-existent for the majority of the movie. In their place we get a barrage of pop-culture references and Disney properties that are very clever in their use. It’s a feast for the ears and eyes. Still I missed seeing Felix trying to help out.
While Ralph is the marquee character, this is Vanellope’s story. Ralph suffers an identity crisis in the first movie and now Vanellope is reevaluating her goals. Would she abandon the world she always knew for a dream she never could have imagined?
The internet has tons of positive and inspirational stories, but it is overshadowed by the negative and cynical ones. Ralph is our innocent ambassador going through all this and, much like us, he will find his self-esteem and confidence challenged. The key is to seek out the sincere comments and genuine listeners. It’s not easy and it takes time, but filtering out the noise is your first step. This movie does a great job of conveying that element of the internet culture.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is in some ways not the movie I expected and in other ways it is. The overall atmosphere of Ralph’s world is transformed beautifully onto the internet. It tackles the concept of purpose and the evolution of friendship. The internet is vast and full of wonders, but it’s not as attractive a world to revolve a movie around as video games were. Also as a Disney movie, I was not surprised to see the amount of Disney references. Unlike Ready Player One, they didn’t have to go too far to obtain licenses since it’s all mostly in-house. I do wish it was more its own story and didn’t self-identify itself as a Disney movie so much. It’s a personal preference more than a story critique though.
John C. Reailly and Sarah Silverman nail their characters perfectly once more and I also enjoyed Gal Gadot’s performance. This movie has a lot of cameo characters in it, but also a lot of cameo voices so keep your ears open. It also has a unique musical number that is hysterical and heartwarming. Stay for the credits because it’s all pure entertainment.
About Ralph Breaks the Internet
Synopsis: Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph”, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.
Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Writer: Phil Johnston, Pamel Ribon,
Stars: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk
Runtime: 1 Hour, 52 Minutes