Ralph Breaks the Internet is directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnson and stars the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch, all of whom reprise their roles from Wreck-it-Ralph. Newcomers to the voice cast include Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, and Ed O'Neill.
A sequel to 2015's Wreck-it-Ralph is one of the rare time's in Disney's recent history of animated features where I think the world would respond to said sequel the same way they would respond to the news of if Wreck-it-Ralph was never getting a sequel ever: accept it without further questioning. Nothing about Wreck-it-Ralph screamed, "Franchise!" so if Disney had just decided to allow Wreck-it-Ralph to be a one-and-done production and move on to other creative, original works, then no one would bat an eye, and life would proceed as normal. Let us never forget though: Disney generates sequels like no other, and if they can keep milking all those money cows that they have lined up in their production barns, then damn it, they will milk every single one of those cows until they start leaking air out of their utters.
In the case of Ralph Breaks the Internet, the milk is still fresh and there is promise on paper: expanding upon the video game world of Wreck-it-Ralph by adding all the wonderful (but kid-friendly) joys of the Internet. Six years after becoming best pals, Wreck-It-Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz are living the dream inside Litwak's Family Fun Center and Arcade. Well, Ralph at least thinks he's living the dream. Vanellope admits to being bored of her game, hoping to one day have something new. Ralph attempts to fulfill Vanellope's wishes by creating a new bonus track in her game, but when Vanellope goes to ride the track free from player control, the steering wheel on the game cabinet breaks, leaving all the Sugar Rush characters homeless. The only replacement for the steering wheel is on eBay, and so Ralph and Vanellope use the arcade's new Wi-Fi router to travel into the Internet, where they must travel to eBay, purchase the steering wheel, pay for it, and get back home before Sugar Rush is closed down for good. Doesn't sound too difficult, right?
- There were no creative limits to how directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston could show off the world of the Internet, and Ralph Breaks the Internet paints a charming, humorous pictures of how things might really work if one were able to "enter" the Internet. A search engine, pop-up ads, and Youtube are all represented in ways that are as colorful as they are believable, my personal favorite sequence being when Vanellope encounters all the famous Disney princesses, in a scene that brilliantly satirizes all the ridiculous technicalities that have befallen almost all of Disney's classic animated features. The Internet world that Ralph Breaks the Internet conceives is exactly the kind of extension that was needed to build upon the arcade world introduced in Wreck-It-Ralph, and if there was to be a Wreck-It-Ralph 3, why I might argue that there could be even more of the digital world that that movie should explore, because it's damn near impossible to cram it all in during a 115 minute feature film. Don't ask me, though, if Disney should even think about parodying the dark corners of the Internet, as well as other realms like the weird part of Youtube (something that, sadly, is left out here).
- The main glitch of Ralph Breaks the Internet is its haphazard screenplay, which almost completely dumps the "get the new steering wheel" story line in favor of a "test Ralph and Vanellope's friendship" story line. The movie struggles to fully make up its mind about what kind of story it wants to tell, and I'm led to believe, considering how everything plays out, that the movie ultimately wants to be a story about how Ralph and Vanellope come to learn that they can still be friends, even if they aren't hanging out together 24/7. It's a meaningful message, sure, but you'd never guess at the start that "friends going their separate ways" was what Ralph Breaks the Internet was going to end up being about. The whole get the steering wheel story leads you to believe that Ralph and Vanellope are going to go through a complicated adventure that requires them to explore as much as the Internet as can be, and if that were the case, the movie could simply pass as a fun cyber adventure. Instead, the movie suddenly becomes a deep exploration of Ralph and Vanellope's friendship, where the movie takes a sharp left turn into a thematically ambiguous territory, and the main message gets lost in a cloud of confusion. I also was not a fan of the film's climax, because it directly rips off King Kong and not in a way that suggests the climax is trying to be any sort of parody. For an animated movie that puts a lot of love into its vast Internet world, the basic storytelling suffers way too much.
All in all, Ralph Breaks the Internet makes for satisfactory animated escapism, taking advantage of the goldmine of material that is the Internet and providing us with 115 minutes worth of good laughs. It's a bummer that the script can't figure out what the story should truly be about, guiding us along with one story until it blindsides us with another one. Regardless, there's still plenty here to take away from, and I think this could have ended up a lot worse if the wrong people got involved. Ralph Breaks the Internet is the kind of sequel that you would be perfectly okay with not ever having, but since it does actually exist, well, that's okay too.
Recommend? Yes. Be sure to see Wreck-It-Ralph first.
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