Ralph Breaks the Internet
Ralph Breaks the Internet provides a welcome return to the world of Wreck-It Ralph, the 2012 film that found an arcade villain on a hero’s journey for acceptance and redemption. The vintage world of quarter-fed machines takes on a different scope when the World Wide Web comes into play.
In many ways, Wreck-It Ralph helped set the stage for the resuscitation of Disney Animation. The studio had been consistently overshadowed by its showy sibling, Pixar, and was unable to connect with contemporary audiences in quite the same way. Then, like Pixar did with Brad Bird, Disney picked a Simpsons veteran (director Rich Moore), gave him reign to be zany, and created a half-billion dollar box office success. Six years later, Moore and collaborator Phil Johnston are back with the sequel, which expands the storyline while still keeping the same cheeky, playful tone.
While Wreck-It Ralph may have been slightly overpraised at the time, the sequel manages to elevate the constrained storyline onto a larger canvas. Much of the success is due to the strong voice performances by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. The latter’s Vanellope von Scheweetz is the most improved here, giving dimension to what was formerly a flat character.
Newcomers include Gal Gadot as a seductive racer, Taraji P. Henson as a sassy trendbot, and Alfred Molina in what’s surely his oddest role in a varied career.
The story involves a Tron-like visit to another world. The already virtual characters are nonetheless in for a bout of culture shock when they leave the confines of their friendly coin-op environment. On the other side, the scope is larger and the temptations greater, resulting in Ralph’s own neuroses being magnified to an even larger extent.
The journey to the Web allows even more cross-cultural pollination from the vast Disney empire, as well as hints at internet companies both real and fictional. Tweets fly through as small birds, YouTube videos abound, and search engines have a habit of interrupting you by anticipating your question. Visions of Muppets, Marvel and Star Wars pop up just to remind you what corporate synergy can look like when weaponized for children’s entertainment.
As cynical as one can be, the inclusion of a retinue of Disney princesses proves to be a sly bit of character reinvention that even pokes fun at the ubiquitous “want song” while, of course, gifting a new one scored by none other than Alan Menken (!). Yes, it’s the typical kind of pop-culture pastiche that litters such flicks, but like The Lego Movie, when it works it truly sails, and these slumber-party princesses are the best bit in the film.
The rest does its darndest to keep the flow going, even if the story occasionally feels redundant. The journey is predictable, but that fact hampers almost every sequel. Instead, what the film truly suffers from is a sense that there’s no real reason for it to exist at all.
However, when buckled in and taken for the ride, it’s quite fun. Enough jokes land to make up for all the ones that don’t. Visually, it’s as impressive as expected (how easily we’ve been made used to such CGI wonders!), and I bet it would be even more fun in 3D.
Ralph Breaks the Internet may not break new ground, but it’s a decent sequel to a decent original. The movie has enough to encourage fans of the Mouse House’s legacy to throw a quarter in the slot and give it a shot.