For a while there I thought we’d never get a sequel to Wreck-It-Ralph, which was – up until now, at least – one of the most under-appreciated movies in the Disney canon. With a well-rounded quartet of lead characters bouncing off one another, it was deftly able to line up arcade-era gaming jokes like it was shooting down targets at the county fair. There’s a certain mold that animated movies follow, one that can commonly be traced back to Pixar’s original Toy Story, whereby we take a look at the lives of creatures or things we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to discern. Ever wanted to know what life is like for rats? Watch Ratatouille. Ever wonder what life is like for cars? Watch Cars. Ever wonder what life was like for bugs? Watch A Bug’s Life. Or Antz. Anyway, this kind of model exists for just about anything, even though I kept my search engine mostly restricted to Pixar. Lately, that kind of modus operandi has shifted over into the technological – naturally – with Wreck-It-Ralph exploring the hidden lives in your video games and The Emoji Movie exploring the hidden lives in your smartphone. Now Ralph Breaks the Internet is going to one-up the latter – which isn’t really hard to do on a quality standpoint – by tackling the black mamba of the technological world, the Internet itself. Seeing as there were infinitely less arcade-inspired products to poke fun at than there are things in general online, this sequel is definitely casting a wider net, and thus retrieving fewer results. That said, there’s also plenty happening in the way of Disney taking advantage of the film’s premise by flexing its proprietary muscle, which you probably already know if you’ve seen even one ad for this. In that way, it’s kind of like The Lego Movie of Disney movies, in that it’ll have on average probably eleven easter eggs in any given frame. While I don’t think it’s the breath of fresh air that its predecessor was – in fact, I equate it a lot with my impression of Incredibles 2 – the makers behind it are far too talented, even when fishing with dynamite, to make it anything less than great.
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck-It-Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) have been living the high life as best friends. While the former is pretty content, Vanellope is admittedly a little bored with the predictability of her game. When Ralph’s attempt to spice it up goes wrong and results in the steering wheel getting split in two, Sugar Rush is unplugged, leaving Vanellope and countless others without a home. Determined to obtain a replacement wheel, Ralph and Vanellope are told of its location at a place called “eBay.” The only way to get to eBay being online, the two plug themselves into the Wi-Fi and shoot off to a magical place called the Information Super Highway. During their travels, they wind up in a game called Slaughter Race, which contains a series of dangerous tracks that appeals to Vanellope greatly. After Vanellope befriends Shank (Gal Gadot), the Slaughter Race version of her, Ralph may have to brace himself with the fact that his best friend may not want to come back to the arcade at all.
This is a Vanellope-Ralph movie through and through. Not to say the first one wasn’t, but now more than ever, meaning the likes of Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) – standouts from Wreck-It-Ralph and essentially co-leads – are largely forgotten about here. Sure, they get a subplot of their own, but one that gets zero development during the second act and gets tacked on at the end of the third. So, a little disappointment there. But, of course, let’s talk about the biggest selling point of the movie: the Disney Princesses. While there is plenty of Disney merch to behold, the Princesses are definitely given the biggest screentime, primarily in a scene from the trailer you’re probably already extremely familiar with. Granted, it’s kind of perfect if almost obligatory, which extends to a climactic moment as well, but those looking forward to it will be pleased and those ambivalent likely won’t be too annoyed with it either. At least this way we won’t be getting a team-up Disney Princess movie, which probably would have been the most forced thing on the planet – although now that I say that, I can hear the sound of Disney’s wallets grumbling. As far as the premise of the film goes, Ralph Breaks the Internet does get a lot of mileage out of the latter half of its title, doing great work to effectively portray and comment on both the positive and negative aspects of the Internet. It may be a little cursory, seeing as the Internet of all things will always be more complex than any 112-minute movie can do justice to, but the film does seem to have a firm enough grasp on the dynamics of it without having it feel very threadbare. Likewise, the ultimate personal struggle for the characters is sturdy enough to propel the narrative through to the end, and will probably be the one thing that rings the most true for viewers of all ages. At the end of the day, Ralph Breaks the Internet doesn’t entirely live up to its predecessor or its nearly infinite narrative possibilities, but it’s more than befitting to be included in the new Walt Disney Animation Studios renaissance. Unless we’re calling it something else, perhaps something with brevity; in that case, let me know what it is.
Final Score: 8/10