If the past decade has taught us anything, it’s that the internet can be a very scary place. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, our heroes get a crash course.
The follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph returns us to the world of Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade, where video game characters Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) and the eponymous oaf (John C. Reilly) live out a pretty steady routine. Vanellope’s now a fan favorite in her arcade racing game, Sugar Rush, but six years of dominating the competition has left her longing for something more.
As she waxes philosophical, Ralph takes it upon himself to bring some excitement to his little pal’s world. During a race the following morning, Ralph creates a new road. Vanellope leaps at the opportunity to experience something novel, but by defying the game’s player, she breaks the steering wheel out in the real world. With the only replacement part going for $200 on eBay, arcade owner Litwak (Ed O’Neill) decides to unplug the game and sell it for parts.
Ralph and Vanellope are distraught at first, but a new Wi-Fi connection gives them a chance to find the part themselves. The duo heads out into the internet, dazzled by what’s depicted as a bustling digital metropolis—but in a world of shady characters, malware, and unkind commenters, it isn’t long before things fall apart.
As far as animated sequels go, Ralph Breaks the Internet performs above expectations. It doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original (some of the novelty having worn off, not to mention the undeniable Ready Player One similarities), but the film skirts the major pitfalls of kids’ movie sequels by exploring new lines of thought rather than doubling down on the established world. It’s a refreshing change from Disney, whose past animated sequels often went straight to video and were notoriously derivative trash.
For how big its world is, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a small story, an examination of what happens when two people change and relationships outgrow the circumstances that created them. Not that this is an easy movie by kid or adult standards. There are some harsh realities presented here, but Ralph Breaks the Internet makes an effort to keep the sweet in bittersweet.
There’s a whole other article to be written about the omnipresent corporate world glitzed up here, where your Amazons and eBays are literally elevated in a futuristic Jetsons utopia above the grimy lands below. I’m sure somebody somewhere is doing their dissertation on internet brand awareness with young children, but with limited space here, let’s just acknowledge the high saturation of proprietary media coming from a company known for its heavy hand in copyright law. Such is the nature of the ever-growing Disney behemoth: We get a movie where Avengers, Stormtroopers, and Disney Princesses (the surprise highlight of the movie) all make appearances, and we decide later whether that’s actually cool in the grand scheme of things.
Taking the good with the bad, Ralph Breaks the Internet’s message is ultimately a positive one, and the movie, while probably leaving you more depressed than most kids’ flicks, works more than it wrecks.