I’m a big video game buff. I’ve been playing them ever since I was old enough to hold a massive Sega Genesis controller in my tiny toddler hands, and I haven’t looked back for even a second. It’s no surprise then that the first Wreck-it Ralph in 2012 was a movie that I greatly enjoyed. It was the perfect combination of fresh perspective and nostalgia in regards to gaming and video game culture, and it left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside in a way that few movies are able to accomplish. So take what’s coming next with a grain of salt as I present to you my somewhat biased review of Ralph Breaks the Internet.
I think you have only to look at the title of the movie to realize my biggest problem with it. Disney decided to shy away from the Wreck-it Ralph 2 moniker in exchange for Ralph Breaks the Internet which was probably the most appropriate change they could have possibly made. Because Ralph Breaks the Internet is no longer really a critique or examination of retro gaming and what made it great, but instead it shifts the focus onto society and the way we view virality and trends. The title is two-fold in that regard, because “breaking the internet” is a saying that’s been around for a while that’s a reference to something going extremely viral in a short time and it also works because (UNSURPRISING SPOILER DUE TO THE MOVIE’S TITLE) Ralph literally breaks the internet. This is my biggest problem with the movie ONLY because I was a really huge fan of the nostalgic lens through which we viewed gaming in the first Wreck-it Ralph, so it was a bit hard for me to accept that we were going to be poking fun at an entirely new thing in the sequel. Having said that, this is mostly me being unreasonable and nitpicky, because I’m a gamer and that’s kind of how we are some times. In reality though, the change works wonderfully for the movie and for it’s characters, opening up brand new storytelling devices and worlds for our characters to interact in.
Ralph Breaks the Internet chooses to bring back a few characters from the first film, but unfortunately almost everybody besides Ralph and Vanellope sort of just make cameo appearances at the beginning and the end. If Felix and his interactions with Calhoun were your favorite part of the first film, I hate to be the one to tell you that they mostly get relegated to the sidelines with maybe a couple of minutes of screen-time at most. I can’t think of a way that they could have been organically inserted into the story without disrupting the flow, so it makes sense from a narrative standpoint. It is just a bit disappointing to not get more of Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch’s colorful and distinctive voice acting.
Having said that, the new characters are a lot of fun. Gal Gadot is a soft-hearted but fierce femme fatale named Shanks who is an NPC in the Grand Theft Auto-esque “Slaughter Race” and an idol to Vanellope. Bill Hader plays a pop-up ad named J.P. Spamley in a role that I swore was Paul Giamatti until I looked it up just now. And Taraji P. Henson plays the trendy Buzztube video algorithm named Yesss who is the one responsible for deciding which videos to push for hearts and views, and which videos to relegate to the unwatched depths of the obvious Youtube stand-in.
But honestly, this is Ralph and Vanellope’s story through and through, and the entire movie hinges on their friendship and their character flaws. Sure, they’re trying to replace a broken part on Vanellope’s Sugar Rush arcade cabinet to save the game from being shut down, but at the core of the movie Ralph is trying to come to terms with the fact that Vanellope needs more out of life than the same-old, same-old day in and day out. There’s really a lot of surprisingly deep commentary here for a children’s movie, to the point where Ralph’s insecurity about being liked by no one other than Vanellope becomes a physical manifestation that threatens to kill them. This is really heavy stuff for a children’s movie, but not so heavy that children will mind it all that much. They should be able to look past it and just see a big bad monster, but the parents in the audience will have something to appreciate and hopefully teach their children about one day.
All in all, this was a pretty fun film. It probably won’t be an all-time Disney classic, but it was enjoyable enough from start to finish and provided a surprising amount of commentary on things like virality and never reading the comments section on video-sharing websites. Ralph Breaks the Internet teaches us all that it’s okay to let other people be themselves, just as it’s important to be faithful to ourselves and grow as individuals. And somehow it managed to not feel like a huge, awful advertisement for a million terrible products, which is more than can be said about…other…movies.
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