THE STORYVideo game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz must risk it all by traveling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, “Sugar Rush.” In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet — the netizens — to help navigate their way, including an entrepreneur named Yesss, who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site BuzzzTube.
THE CAST – John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill & Taraji P. Henson
THE TEAM – Rich Moore (Director), Phil Johnston (Director/Writer) & Pamela Ribon
THE RUNNING TIME – 112 Minutes
By Kt Schaefer
With “Ralph Breaks The Internet” it seems that Disney has finally achieved peek synchronization with current culture and learned how to connect with the generations that were born with a world where the internet has become ubiquitous. While this may distance it from some audiences who either aren’t familiar with the current state of the internet, or those who aren’t entertained by its callback-laden circular culture, for those who are in the know it will be a fun, light-hearted romp through a bright and colorful world that has some surprising depth thrown in for good measure.
6 years after the initial film, “Ralph Breaks The Internet” brings us back to the world of Litwacks Arcade where Ralph and Vanellope have developed a routine. Every day they go off to their games and give the patrons of the arcade a good time before gathering together at night to enjoy each other’s company. As time passes, however, Vanellope has grown tired of the same thing every day and in an attempt to liven things up Ralph surprises her with a new track in the Sugar Rush game. But when she takes the new road the player is confused and resists Vanellope’s driving, resulting in a broken steering wheel and the impending removal of Sugar Rush from the arcade. In a desperate bid to save her game, Vanellope and Ralph go on to the newly installed WIFI router to reach the Internet to see if they can find a new steering wheel and keep the characters in Sugar Rush driving.
They are greeted with a gorgeously colorful world of apps, memes, websites, and videos that are bewildering at first, but the two friends quickly learn to navigate the world and manage to snag a new steering wheel but are left trying to find a way to pay for it. In their search for funds they enter a brutal racing game set in a post-apocalyptic world where Vanellope unexpectedly finds everything her heart desires, including a new friend by the name of Shank (Gal Gadot) who thoughtfully gives them an idea to make money that involves Ralph and viral videos as well as a connection to her friend Yesss (Taraji P Henson) who runs the algorithms at the website Buzztube. As Yesss guides Ralph towards viral video fame, and therefore the money to complete their quest, Vanellope begins to see that her life could be so much more. This new threat of abandonment sends Ralph into a panic resulting in chaos and danger that just may destroy not only their friendship but Ralph and Vanellope as well.
The original “Wreck-It Ralph” was a believable vision of the secret life of classic video game arcade characters, and the new film “Ralph Breaks The Internet” brings that same fresh and thoughtful style to the Internet. From the pop-up ads being rebuffed by bodyguards (as stand-ins for popup blockers) to the portrayal of Twitter as a forest of little blue birds where a popular video spreads astonishingly fast, the gags and backgrounds in every scene provide an inspired interpretation of the interior life of technology. Disney even goes so far as to include their intellectual property and allows the writers of the film to briefly examine the company’s own social issues in one of the most enjoyable scenes in the film. This willingness to embrace all aspects of internet culture is what pushes the film more in the direction of feeling like comedic-but benevolent-social commentary as opposed to a cash grab of such recent films as “The Emoji Movie”.
On a deeper level, “Ralph Breaks The Internet” takes the opportunity to explore concepts such as codependency and unhealthy expectations of friends. Ralph is repeatedly shown to be more concerned with Vanellope’s sustained friendship than her personal aspirations and with each plot beat it becomes more apparent how damaging that can be to a relationship. As she finds out there is more to existence than her game Sugar Rush and begins to yearn for a more fulfilling life Ralph clings to her ever tighter, resulting in a final confrontation that forces Ralph to see just how much his own insecurities hurt those around him. While this may seem like a very adult concept for a children’s film, it is only an extension of the normal growth process that kids go through as they learn to consider the needs and wants of others.
With one of its best sequels to date, “Ralph Breaks The Internet,” Disney continues its main characters’ development and offers a new lesson for the audience. While the second act drags a little, the first and third acts make up for this with razor-sharp storytelling and a willingness to force Ralph and Vanellope to confront their problems head-on while also providing plenty of jokes and sight gags to keep audiences of all ages-or at least those with the requisite knowledge of the Internet at large-engaged. Despite its minor weaknesses, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a great expansion on the original concept and for those who are willing and able to embrace the setup it will be a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A gorgeously designed sequel to the original, this new film offers a deeper story and even more hilarious jokes about both the world of the Internet and the entertainment world in general.
THE BAD – A choppy second act and a premise that will not appeal to everyone as it almost requires an understanding of the Internet at large in order to get most of the jokes.
THE FINAL SCORE – 9/10