Genre: Adventure, Comedy, and Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.
Release Date: November 21st, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore Actors: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill
hen “Sugar Rush Speedway” arcade heroine Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) confesses to her best friend, “Wreck-It Ralph” game villain Ralph (John C. Reilly), that she’s grown tired of the predictable, uneventful nature of her video game, he sets about making a new racetrack to help rejuvenate excitement in her surroundings. But when a customer accidentally breaks the arcade’s steering wheel while trying to navigate the new course, “Sugar Rush Speedway” faces being turned off and permanently scrapped. Desperate for a solution, Ralph and Vanellope venture into the wild highways of the Internet, hoping to acquire a new wheel on eBay. As it turns out, winning the controller is the easy part – paying for it is an entirely different matter. With only a few hours to come up with the cash, the duo must traverse the treacherous tracks of “Slaughter Race,” the malicious memes of Buzzztube, and the dangerous depths of the dark web to accrue enough funds to save the day.
For a film that doesn’t have the number 2 in its title, it’s a little odd that this sequel doesn’t begin with any sort of recap of what took place in the original “Wreck-It Ralph.” Audiences are immediately handed two best-friend protagonists, yet for anyone unfamiliar with the characters – or for those who have forgotten – these heroes don’t automatically command reverence. They’re essentially introduced with a burping contest, which is a disappointingly immature way to highlight the stars of the show. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” goes on to feature conversations that contemplate the leads’ very existences, such as the fact that, despite being sentient video game avatars, they’re just a series of 0’s and 1’s.
When Wifi is brought into the mix (itself represented as something of a video game, while also carrying the peculiarity of hardwired travel solely from the router to an outlet, thereby glossing over wireless signals), individual concepts become cleverer, especially when the unplugging of a machine results in homelessness, or when blips of electricity symbolize the characters’ movements. Most amusing of all is the wealth of jokes based on standard internet functionality, such as autofill predictions, clickbait and spam, pop-ups and blockers, loot hunting, and the loss of internet connections. Video game culture is mocked incessantly, paired with comical visualizations of downloading/uploading, likes, algorithms, social media, trending videos, advertising, comment boards, the dark web, viruses, and more. “I’ll just copy whatever’s popular.”
Pop culture is also on display, serving more as a tool for communicating with viewers rather than for satirization. Sadly, these components will be the ones that age poorly, while also imparting a juvenility that dumbs down the innovative approach to personifying elements of the web. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” seems more interested in creating funny non sequitur scenes rather than building laughs organically with the narrative, which detracts from an effective story. Many of these unrelated gags are quite hilarious, however, such as a spoofing of the Disney princesses (“She’s from the other studio,” whispers one of the leading ladies after Merida blurts out an incomprehensible Scottish mouthful – actually voiced by “Brave’s” Kelly Macdonald), complete with a musical number initiated by a soulful gaze into a puddle of water.
“First rule of the internet: Don’t read the comments.” Eventually, there are some maturer notes on perusing the web – not exactly working as a cautionary tale, but something of a cartoonish user guide for negotiating the positive and negative aspects of so many interconnected yet anonymous people. And somewhere along the line, the film makes it look easy to accrue $27,000 in less than a day through goofy videos that attract millions of hits. More potent is the examination of comfortable routines versus exciting spontaneity, which can be additionally interpreted as monotony versus danger, and brief notes of unwanted surveillance. Friendship is also a major component, along with adventure and excellent animation, but the cuteness and the spattering of witty parodies aren’t enough to overcome the slowness, the repetition, and the lack of emotional content. Plus, the absolute funniest bit in the entire picture takes place after the credits start to roll.
– The Massie Twins