Movie Brew: Ralph Breaks the Internet
I’ll admit something – I wasn’t a big fan of Wreck-It Ralph. I didn’t dislike the movie, but like some recent Disney films it lacked any “oomph” moments for me. The film was heartwarming, had some decent comedy, and a lot of Easter eggs, but the laughs and style were inconsistent.
I had similar experiences with Meet the Robinsons, Bolt, and Big Hero 6, and I wonder if this is because it’s from Disney Animations Studios and not Pixar. Disney Animation films (including Ralph) often pale in comparison to movies like Toy Story, The Incredibles, or Up.
I decided to give Ralph another chance, as I enjoyed the video game references and the concept of the Internet sounded like it would have a lot of laughs. I can safely say I wasn’t disappointed, although I still had a lot of the same criticisms.
Ralph Breaks the Internet was heartwarming, had some great comedy, and tons of Easter eggs, but faltered at points.
The sequel to the 2012 film, Ralph 2 takes its titular character and his best friend from the arcade into the big world. When Vanellope’s game breaks, the only way to save it is for the two to travel into the Internet and find a part no longer made.
Along the way, the two friends discover more about themselves and their relationship. Vanellope wants something new and exciting while Ralph enjoys a life of repetition and safety; when the racer finds her dream life, Ralph’s insecurities drive him to dangerous actions that put everything at risk.
Unlike Wreck-It Ralph, which was a story about loneliness helped through friendship, Ralph 2 focuses on what it’s like when those relationships are interrupted by personal dreams, self-doubt, and distance.
The most substantial part of Ralph Breaks the Internet is in the title – the Internet. References abound, from eBay to Twitter, pop-ups to ad blockers, and so on; a few popular sites aren’t mentioned or are given “parody” names, like BuzzTube, which makes me wonder if Disney couldn’t negotiate all the licensing agreements.
One of the fun parts about these scenes is both the representation of people on the Internet (who look like Pop! figures) as well as real-life consequences (like someone’s computer screen changing videos when Ralph takes control.) Also, the Easter eggs abound, from the empty, dilapidated streets of the original web (GeoCities anyone?) to the dangerous alleys of the Dark Web (a joke I don’t think was appropriate in a children’s film.)
Video game references stay strong in “Slaughter Race,” where Vanellope finds the excitement she desires. While the game characters are animated like “normal,” players show up and constantly turn in circles, sit in strange positions (sometimes on nothing), and act in other ways that reference to gaming avatars and their awkward movement.
The highlight of the film, and probably the funniest, is the part everyone was waiting for thanks to the trailers. When Vanellope is sent to the “family friendly” section, she finds herself in the Disney corner of the Internet.
Before we even reach a particular scene, the laughs begin as they reference all the properties of the House of Mouse. Marvel shows up (with a surprise, but now sad, “appearance” by Stan Lee) and Star Wars plays some amusing roles in the film.
The Disney Princess sequence is everything we were expecting and more; this portion is part homage, part self-mockery, and all fun. Bonus points for having every original or current voice actor for all the Princesses, except for Snow White (who still does a good job).
I was a little disappointed as the film took a downturn after that height of hilarity but stay tuned – the Princesses do show up again.
Speaking of voice actors, the cast is fantastic as well, both originals and new characters. Reilly and Silverman continue to embody their characters with their voices and bring gravitas to the more dramatic and emotional moments.
I was a little disappointed that McBrayer and Lynch were relegated to a side story, one that felt a little shoehorned into the main plot, but I always enjoyed their banter (especially Sergeant Calhoun). Henson’s character of Yesss, the “BuzzTube” chief algorithm, and Gadot’s bad-ass Shank, the primary opponent in “Slaughter Race”, more than make up for Felix and Sarge’s absence.
You’ll find plenty of original performers returning to their roles or providing new ones, including a surprise return by Alan Tudyk (as a completely different character). Also, like the Disney Princesses, many other actors voice their Disney-owned roles, from Tim Allen to Vin Diesel.
If there was a major complaint, it’s that Ralph Breaks the Internet is inconsistent with its humor and story. The comedy throughout, which ranges from poignant jabs at the Internet to bathroom humor to Disney’s own self-mockery, is often interrupted by moments of action or melancholy.
It’s not that these styles can’t coexist in one film; many a Pixar film seamlessly blends family drama with non-stop laughter. Unfortunately, Ralph 2 doesn’t quite live up to that standard and changes between mood are jarring, including a climactic sequence that feels notably different from the rest of the film.
Although that’s a significant criticism, I feel that Ralph 2 provides so many high points that it counters the same dissonance I felt in its predecessor. They may not have fixed my earlier problems with the franchise, but the Internet brings enough fun that they’re easier to overlook.
I may still not be sold on Disney’s new formula, preferring films like Moana and Frozen, but I did have a good time. I appreciate the solid references to the Internet and its role in our society, the hilarious Disney sequences, and the excellent cast.
If only they could maintain a level of consistency in the mood, or at least make it blend better. I certainly hope Disney does a Ralph 3, although I’m not sure what plot they could move to next.
Perhaps a more significant exploration of multiplayer online games beyond the single example in this film? I know I’d be excited to see Ralph and Vanellope in Spider-Man, Overwatch, and Pokémon!
If you liked Wreck-It Ralph, then this movie is for you; even if you just found the original amusing, give Ralph 2 a chance, and you’ll still have it fun. Just prepare yourself for the overload of Easter eggs, references, and self-targeting humor.
Oh, and stick around to the very end: there are extra scenes mid- and post-credits!
I give Ralph Breaks the Internet a trending 4 steering wheels out of 5.
Thanks to Allied for the screening passes.
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