Films outside of the Disney and Pixar animation studios, rarely to never get a chance at a sequel. However Ralph and Vanellope are back six years after wrecking the box office with the original film “Wreck It Ralph”. Filmmaker Rich Moore who returns as director gets to expand upon his world with “Ralph Breaks The Internet”, which plays like the Kiddieland version of Spielberg’s “Ready Player One”. Much like “Ready Player One”, it requires multiple viewings to catch all the Easter eggs.
“Ralph Breaks The Internet” has tons of pop culture infused fun of exploiting the Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm library. The whole address book of Disney characters show up. The much discussed Disney princesses’ scene is extremely clever, with the added bonus of the original stars returning to voice their characters. It’s easily the best and most memorable scene of the film. Ralph and Vanellope and all of their arcade character friends are enjoying a blissful but predictable and to the point of boredom existence inside the 1980s style console games at Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade.
After encountering a broken steering wheel on the arcade console for Vanellope’s “Sugar Rush”, it appears there’s only one replacement part available and it’s for sale in the forbidden world of the internet on something called EBoy or EBay? The film has a great joke about the pronunciation of EBay and how EBay’s auctions work. It’s the film’s funniest bit up until the end when Ralph starts trying to wreck EBay’s holographic signs and claiming “Even their signs aren’t real!”. I laughed and smiled so hard throughout the entire sequence.
But here’s where I’m confused about the timeline of “Ralph”. We see Mr Litwak being introduced to the Internet for the first time by hooking up his modem and surfing the net on his IMac desktop computer (you know the egg-shaped monitor, with a green colored translucent plastic case bordering the screen and clear translucent plastic case covering the rest of the monitor). What I’m trying to get at is that model was introduced in 1998 and yet we get references to Twitter and other entities like Facebook and a lot others that weren’t around back then. Is this an inaccuracy on Disney’s part? Or is Litwak so behind in the technology race that he is using a 1998 monitor in modern day social media? Damn you Disney for making me use my brain! It being Disney I bet there going to make me use my heart too?
I knew it! Because at the heart of the sequel it’s all about the up’s and down’s of the friendship between the two characters: the hapless, oversized villain turned gentle giant Ralph voiced once again by “Step Brothers” John C. Reilly, who is joined by the sharp witted, glitch afflicted and all around adorable race-car driving whiz Vanellope, a returning Sarah Silverman. And once again, both John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman deliver exceptional, funny and warm voice work. Reilly follows up one of the year’s, and one of his best performances in the western “Sisters Brothers”. Reilly reinforces how a good character actor is always the best choice for animated fare
While Ralph and Vanellope tries to earn funds to buy the replacement steering wheel, Vanellope becomes enamored with an online game called Slaughter Race, a rough and edgy racing game a million bytes removed from the sweet and innocent lollipop flavored world of Vanellope’s Sugar Rush. Slaughter Race is “Grand Theft Auto” and “Twisted Metal” rolled into one. “Fast and The Furious” and “Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot voices street racer Shank the leader of Slaughter Race. This will help bring closure to people who are still upset about the fate Gadot’s character faced in “Fast & Furious 6”.
For the past six years, Ralph has built his world around his friendship with Vanellope, but now it appears she’s pulling away. The more infatuated Vanellope becomes with Slaughter Race and Shank, the more Ralph resents Vanellope. Even if Ralph does get the replacement steering wheel, will Vanellope even want to return to their simple and safe arcade life? That simple main story thread plays out featuring some new characters including a fast talking Pop-Up Ad JP Spamley (Bill Hader); an algorithm named Yesss, voiced by one of my favorites Taraji P. Henson. “Ralph Breaks The Internet” is filled with cameos by Disney owned characters ranging from “Star Wars” Stormtroopers to Marvel superheroes and one man in particular. Of course also included is those aforementioned scene stealing princesses who are gathered together like they’re living in a sorority. Some of them have interesting insights to their own storylines. It’s by far the film’s greatest highlight and a brilliant example of Disney poking fun at itself and being able to celebrate the incredible legacy of female characters. I hope their is a franchise in the works with those iconic leading ladies.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” actually provides a very moving message about online bullying. Ralph discovers not just the fun and silly parts of life online but endures its most negative and hurtful aspects as well. In true Disney fashion they got these themes extremely well. Ralph’s neediness and insecurities, coupled with his natural tendency to wreck things, push his bond with Vanellope to its breaking point in the movie’s most dramatic, poignant moments, brought to life in an ho-hum action packed final act. Ralph’s dunderheaded actions literally breaks the internet. The finale is a signature mixture of action, humor, and heartstring tugging, that Disney knows best.
Like the first movie, sight gags are where you’ll find the biggest laughs and smiles. Suffice it to say, the more of a techie you are the more gags you’ll catch. However “Ralph”, makes me wonder if the humor is better suited to adults than kids. The little ones will be mesmerized by the volume of things happening on the screen at once, but I highly doubt a kid is going to get why an Internet joke about Al Gore, “Are you the Algorithm?” is supposed to be funny.
There is too much of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” that feels like a retread. As Ralph and Vanellope make their way through various recognizable areas of the web, it feels like the characters in “The Emoji Movie” traveling from one app to another app, and following in “The Emoji Movie’s” foot steps is not a good idea. The first “Wreck It Ralph” was spectacular close to being a 5 star movie, but it never felt nearly as phoned in as the sequel does. While the sequel does contain a great set up to expand the universe of “Wreck It Ralph” and does a much better job than “Ready Player One” tried to do, by showcasing our obsession with pop culture and the internet.
“Ralph Breaks The Internet” is a lot more effective with the message by being much more subtle and they subtly mock how much time we waste online, but unlike “Ready Player One”, they also acknowledge how it can in many ways bring people together. What it comes down to is this is Disney, a studio that’s made us come to expect that we leave the auditoriums with more than just an, “Ah that was ok” feeling from their animated features. I mean come on they have been shelling out 5 star films one after another since March of 2016 with “Zootopia”, “Finding Dory”, “Moana”, “Cars 3”, “Coco” and “Incredibles 2”. Ralph doesn’t just break the internet, he also breaks Disney’s 5 star rating streak.
★★★ (3) OUT OF ★★★★★ (5)