Ralph Breaks the Internet may not be as good as the original, but it still has the same heart that its predecessor did. It takes a while to find its bearings, but when it lays in to making fun of internet culture and fellow Disney properties, it becomes an amazing thing to watch. And down deep, there’s a great story about friendship… and insecurities.
It’s been 6 years since the events of our first film, and everything is exactly as we last saw it. Wreck-It Ralph (John C Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) are still best friends. But while Ralph is enjoying the routine of his life, Vanellope wants more. She’s tired of racing around the same tracks over and over. And so, when Wi-Fi is installed in the arcade, Ralph and Vanellope find themselves scouring the internet for a part to fix the Sugar Rush game.
Of course, then they find themselves without the money to purchase what they need and find themselves at the mercy of the very strange economy of the internet. This is where the film takes off as they visit various locales trying to make some money. This includes a Grand Theft Auto / Twisted Metal type online racing game, where they encounter a racer played to perfection by Gal Gadot. I know this is weird to say about a 30-something and a 10-year old, but you really sort of ‘ship her with Vanellope. Friendship, of course! *wink*
Speaking of great new characters, we also get to meet “Yes,” (Taraji P Henson) the algorithm behind a Buzzfeed/YouTube type site. The film endlessly skewers internet trends and viral videos, which not only makes for a lot of fun but also some wry commentary on what it is we do for entertainment online.
But the absolute breakout scene of the film (Minor spoiler, but an early version of this scene was shown at Comic Con, so this shouldn’t be news to anyone) is Vanellope learning that she is now one of the Disney princesses. Not only is this the best scene in the film, but they went to the lengths of getting as many of the original voice actors for each of the Disney princesses as possible. It’s also a great commentary on the tropes of Princessdom. Oh, and while in the Disney area, they make fun of Star Wars. A lot. It’s perfect.
What ends up working the most about this film is that it is driven by these two characters who we as the audience can see are drifting apart and want different things. We also see them making bad choices in how they communicate with one another about their wants and insecurities, which makes them drift even further apart. it’s a great introspection on friends and friendship and friends drifting apart.
The only downside of this is I’m not sure kids will buy into this message. It feels much more like an adult conversation about insecurities and why it’s hard to maintain adult friendships, whereas kids just make friends because they’re into the same stuff and in close proximity to one another.
The other downside of the film is it’s not clear if this will keep the same classic vibe that the original Wreck-It Ralph did. By being very comfortably retro, it set itself apart as being sort of a film placed outside of time: thanks to nostalgia for classic 8-but arcade games, it already has a classic feel before it’s even made.
This film trades in that classic vibe for such current and prescient content/memes as Fortnite dances, and it’s unclear what cultural impact (if any?) this will have several years from now. Then again, you might have said the same thing about Q-bert or Street Fighter, and we still have all of those characters in Wreck-It Ralph.
One thing writer-director Rich Moore knows is comedy. As a veteran of The Simpsons and writer/director of some of its most classic early episodes (“Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” is a personal favorite), he knows how to bring giant belly-laughs and smart satire. All of that is served up here in giant Thanksgiving-sized helpings.
The only problem is the film takes 20 to 30 minutes explaining its newly revised premise until the funny really kicks in. Sequels usually can forgo some basic exposition and cut to the chase, but this has to reset its basic premise before wackiness can ensue. And it doesn’t really hit its stride until that scene where we’re making fun of Disney princesses. It hits that climax about 2/3 of the way through, and rarely approaches the same heights again. It’s really unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s hard to remember a better single scene of any animated film in the past several years. Those five minutes are worth the price of admission alone.
The original Wreck-It Ralph works so well because of its giant heart.
When Ralph embraces that he’s a bad guy and is willing to use his badness to save his new, weird, glitchy friend, we all shed a tiny tear. It’s a beautiful story about broken people finding each other and being ok with not being “perfect” according to everyone else’s standards.
Ralph Breaks the Internet might break your funny bone, but not your heart. It’s missing some of that beautiful magic of the first, but it’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser for families looking for a great time in theaters over the holiday season.
Here’s hoping Disney will green-light a third film where they just make fun of Disney properties.
3.75 out of 5 stars
PS- Be aware there are two after-credits scenes, but neither is a must-see. However, at least one provides more of the meta-humor poking fun at the film and its marketing. They’re worth sticking around to suck the extra marrow out of the film, but if your little kids have to run to the potty and can’t hold it much longer, you won’t miss too much. This isn’t the MCU. . . yet. Wait a minute. . . Here’s a pitch: Ralph Wrecks the MCU— IN 2024! Crossover with Marvel vs. Capcom! Make it a team-up with Deadpool. BRILLIANT!!! Rich Moore– call me.