I didn’t have high hopes for Wreck-It Ralph when it came out in 2012, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the friendship between Ralph and Vanellope wasn’t overshadowed by the numerous video game jokes. Ralph wasn’t a bad guy, but he played one for the game “Fix-It Felix” and Vanellope had glitches in the “Sugar Rush” game. Both were misunderstood, but this odd couple became friends and became better people because of it, which is a lot more than many were expecting to find in the animated tale.
Now the pair is back for Ralph Breaks the Internet and we pick up shortly where we left them. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) meet up “after work” outside of their own games to jump into other games and goof around and tell silly jokes. They’re quite pair. But when Vanellope tells Ralph that she’s starting to get bored by winning all the time in Sugar Rush, he jumps in to help make the game for exciting for her. Unfortunately, this makes the game for frustrating for the human girls playing the game in the arcade and they accidentally break the games steering wheel, leaving the game inoperable. This leads to the threat of the arcade owner to unplug the game and so there is a mass exodus of game characters leaving the game and now have become “gameless.”
Ralph of course invites Vanellope to join his game, but she feels out of place. The two overhear the humans talk about someplace called E-bay and learn that the broken part could be ordered there through the internet and so, the two are off on their new adventure.
Illustrating the internet was one of the animators’ biggest challenge – how do you create a physical world wide web? Amazingly, they do an incredible job where internet character representing humans on the outside world jump into little vehicles and quickly zoom to their destinations.
Ralph and Vanellope find E-bay pretty quickly and the part, but they soon learn the reality that they need actual money to purchase said part and so, the two try to find part-time internet jobs to do just that. They check out pop-up ads on “how to get rich playing video games” and post videos on a YouTube lookalike site and even check out the “dark web” to make some quick cash.
Along their journey they wind up in the mythical world of Slaughter Race (which is very similar to our real world’s “Grand Theft Auto” game that is rated “mature” and is not intended for children) and of course Vanellope feels right at home. She meets Shank (Gal Gadot) and learns that, like Ralph, she and her friends are actually pretty nice people despite the fact that they live in a post-apocalyptic world. Shank is willing to serve as a mentor of sorts for Vanellope which of course makes Ralph uncomfortable and he wants to get her out of that world as soon as he can. Ralph being Ralph, has good intentions but he again triggers a chain of events that causes more chaos for the two and a frenzied third act to the movie.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is mostly a good movie where once again the message of an enduring friendship through the tough trials of life is the central theme, but while others feel that the sequel surpasses the original, I beg to differ.
First of all, two of the main characters in the first film, newly married Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and tough girl Calhoun (Jane Lynch) are only seen briefly in the beginning and ending of the film.
Second, the best Disney movies are timeless. You can watch the classics many years later and they still tell a fresh story. That won’t be the case here. In Wreck-It Ralph, the whole story is set in a world of nostalgia, but here the setting is based on the here and now in the world of the internet. Many of the today’s biggest brands like Google, Amazon and others get a mention. This film is sure to feel dated in a few years.
Third, this is the only Disney film that I can think of that actually includes advertising. Okay, not actual advertising in the traditional sense, but in order to make this world feel authentic, they wanted a number of real websites to be represented alongside the new made up ones, similar to what they did in the first movie with real arcade game characters mixed in with new creations. I don’t know if it works. Heck, the film is loosely a commercial for E-bay which is mentioned a bazillion times in the film. I’m not very comfortable with that and it feels like Disney sold out a bit on this choice, but I did like the special “E-Boy” character who pops up every now and then.
Fourth, I’m still confused with the whole Slaughter Race sequences. You would think that the film’s villain lived there, but they don’t. In terms of the story, Slaughter Race is not that bad, which is a clever joke for adults, but I don’t understand why Disney thought it was a good idea to have Vanellope’s character be enticed to jump into a world that is so similar to a real game that parents try to keep their kids away from.
The best scene by far in the movie is when Vanellope finds herself in the world of the website Oh My Disney and finds a room where all of the Disney princesses live. Voiced by the original actresses who voiced the characters in their own stories (well, most of them anyway) the scene is hilarious. Cinderella breaking her glass slipper to use as a weapon against the intruder is priceless. While that seems somewhat out of character for her, the rest of the girls pretty much stay in character with Sleeping Beauty drifting off and birds following Snow White around. You no doubt have seen clips from this scene and it’s just as fun as you’d think it would be. It is totally unnecessary to the story but a delightful rest stop along the journey.
At almost two hours in length, it’s pretty long for a kids’ movie, but they will love it despite the fact that it’s their parents that will actually understand the jokes.
Main Image: Walt Disney Pictures
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.