Six years ago, Walt Disney Animated Studios debuted its 50th feature film: Wreck-It Ralph. The film encompassed everything that brought Disney to the forefront of animation, from its superb animation to its hilarity and its core, a pair of beautifully fleshed out video game characters. A sequel almost seemed inevitable but alas, nothing was announced. Until two years ago when Disney finally announced that a sequel had been commissioned, titling it Ralph Breaks the Internet. Its predecessor is a tough act to follow but Disney’s second outing with Ralph and the crew from Litwak’s Arcade is, by all accounts, terrific as it manages to take everything special about the first film and elevate it to new and exciting heights.
Ralph Breaks the Internet follows video game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz after Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, breaks down. The pair decide to risk it all by traveling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part to save her game. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet — the netizens — to help navigate their way, including an entrepreneur named Yesss, who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site BuzzzTube and Shank, a badass street racer from the dangerous game Slaughter Race.
With Ralph 2 embracing the internet, it follows the common trope of becoming bigger than its predecessor. That being said, what this film succeeds at the most is that, at its core, it is a story about Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship. The grounded story does not have the pair of video game icons team up to fight a typical villain but rather, having them face off against their insecurities in their friendship. The movie leaves you with a strong message about needing to trust the friends you hold close and to evolve as you both grow in an ever-increasing scary world. It is able to show that, no matter where you are, if a friendship is strong enough, it will last forever. For younger viewers, it will be an important lesson but for the film’s older audience, it is a reminder of a time many have experienced: having to accept growth in a relationship, whether you like it or not.
The performances in this film are fantastic as John C. Reilly proves once again why he is one of Hollywood’s funniest leading men. In the role of Ralph, Reilly brings such a sense of humor but also a surprising amount of emotion. As he watches Vanellope become more acquainted with the internet, he goes to great lengths to “protect” her which leads to some truly passionate moments from the character. Sarah Silverman is as charming as ever as Vanellope. More than Ralph, she is the fish out of water character that allows for the film to deeply explore the internet. She is in awe whenever witnessing a new aspect of the net and Silverman captures her wonder but also the complex nature of the princess perfectly. Taraji P. Henson debuts as Yesss, an algorithm that that determines the trending videos on BuzzTube. Henson is a joy to watch as Yesss, the character who demonstrates how quick something can be loved and hated on the net. She is fashionable, hilarious and always on the lookout for the next big thing. Finally, Gal Gadot makes her Disney debut as Shank, a precarious street racer with a heart of gold. Gadot is great in the role as she helps Vanellope process her current situation while also helping her discover who she was meant to be.
Unlike The Emoji Movie, which showcased the internet in quite possibly the most superficial way, Ralph Breaks the Internet nails its manifestation of the World Wide Web, both in a meaningful and light way. The overall design of the cyberspace reflects the massive strides it’s taken since its debut a number of year ago; showing how evolved shopping and social media has become. Through the eyes of Vanellope, the viewer witnesses the brighter side of the internet: a place where opportunities blossom and you do not have to hide who you truly are. On the other hand, Ralph is subjected to the dark side of the net: where people spew hate at every corner no matter the subject as well as the literal “dark web,” a place known for its less than legal aspects.
As the trailers promised, the internet is used to demonstrate not only its own evolution, but Disney’s as well. The amount of cross promotion in this film is unreal as part of this film acts as Disney saying “look at us and all the cool stuff we have done.” Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and classic Walt Disney Animation films are all on full display as Vanellope navigates through the “Oh My Disney” website. It can be exhausting to some but the sequence acts as a gateway to quite possibly Disney’s best set-piece in a long time.
For this film, co-writer Pamela Ribon and directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnson managed to craft an absolute riot of a sequence involving every single one of Disney’s famed Princesses. The company brought back nearly every single original voice actress for the film, sans the obvious older princesses such as Snow White (Pamela Ribon), Sleeping Beauty (Kate Higgins) and Cinderella (Jennifer Hale). But Idina Menzel, Jodi Benson, Ming-Na Wen and Anika Noni Rose, just to name a few, are back in their royal glory and the princess squad are a joy to watch. Several meta moments occur as the women explain what it means to be a Disney Princess to Vanellope, a “princess” in her own right who very clearly did not need to sing to get to where she is. What is even more hilarious is that Ralph Breaks the Internet does in fact have a musical moment with Vanellope and Gal Gadot’s Shank and it might be the film’s best moment (the song is called “A Place Called Slaughter Race”).
Henry Jackman’s music for the film is vibrant and wondrous. Not only does he incorporate classic Disney themes from the past (as well as a few notes from John Williams’ Star Wars compositions), he manages to elevate his score from the first film, perfectly encapsulating how massive and stimulating the internet can be. From action set-pieces in the finale to softer moments between Vanellope and Shank, Jackman’s score is there to draw you in to what the characters are feeling and to engross you in the world created for this film.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is a blast from start to finish. Its impactful messages about friendship and online bullying will connect with audiences of all ages and will leave you excited about what the future holds. The internet is a dark and dangerous place but it is also a space where opportunities blossom and knowledge is endless and Ralph Breaks the Internet never shies away from demonstrating the true power of it. The humor lands, the performances were terrific and the music was captivating, making this Disney animated sequel an incredibly enticing experience.
Rating – 8/10
Ralph Breaks the Internet hits theatres on November 21, 2018