Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) Review

A WORTHY “CYBERSPACE” SEQUEL


 

In 2012, Disney, after coming off the success of 2010’s Tangled and the mediocre release of 2011’s Winnie the Pooh, released their 52nd animated feature film titled Wreck-It Ralph. Directed by Rich Moore, the film, which starred the voice talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Alan Tudyk, tells the story of Ralph, a video game villain, who rebels against his “bad guy” preset role and dreams of being the “hero of the game”; setting in motion an adventure of discovering more about himself and the lives of others around him. Filled with colorful characters and classic video game arcade nostalgia, Wreck-It Ralph was critical and commercial success, with the feature grossing $471 million at the box office (against its $165 million production budget. Along with its monetary success, the movie won an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature as well as received nominations for the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for Best Lively Feature. Given how well-received the movie was, it was almost a forgone conclusion that a sequel would materialize on the horizon. Unfortunately, Disney then proceeded to produce other animated features following Wreck-It Ralph’s release, including Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and Moana. Now, six years after its release, Walt Disney studios and directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston presents the long-awaited sequel to Wreck-It Ralph with Disney’s 57th animated feature Ralph Breaks the Internet (originally titled Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2). Does this second installment find its “connection” with its users (moviegoers) or does it get lost within its own digital database of internet / social media nuances?

THE STORY


Picking up six years after the events of the first film and both Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are still the best of friends, spending every night together and goofing off while Litwak’s Family Fun Center & Arcade is closed for the evening. However, while Ralph thoroughly enjoys the “day to day” routine of the video arcade character, Vanellope has gotten tired of all the monotony of the lifestyle, especially within her own game of Sugar Rush (i.e. same racers and same three race tracks). However, when Ralph decides to help Vanellope tries to help his friend by building her a new “exciting” race track, the game player accidentally breaks the main controller for the Sugar Rush arcade game. Sadly, with the company that built Sugar Rush have gone out of business, Litwak decides it’s easier to scarp the game entirety than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a replacement part. While Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) take in the displaced racers of Sugar Rush, Ralph decides to go into the internet and buy the replacement part for the game himself. Thus, Ralph and Vanellope venture inside the Internet looking for the game part. Their adventure takes them through the various realms that the Internet has to offer, including the online game Slaughter Race, where they meet the racer Shank (Gal Gadot), who Vanellope quickly begins to look up to. Ralph and Vanellope also meet KnowsMore (Alan Tudyk), a personified search engine, and Yesss (Taraji P. Henson), the head algorithm of the site called BuzzTube, which is a fictional combination of Buzzfeed and YouTube. However, it becomes clear that Vanellope and Ralph don’t see eye to eye when it comes to their dreams of what their lives can be, and as a result, their friendship is about to be test as each one must survive their own insecurities and the massive interlinking world of the World Wide Web.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


Being a fan of all things Disney, I’ve always enjoyed their animated feature films, finding some to beloved classics (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King), and some bit forgetful (Home on the Range, Brother Bear, and Chicken Little), and some that are just somewhere in the middle (Atlantis: The Lost Empire). To me, Wreck-It Ralph was somewhat of a surprise hit, especially after the more favorable “classic” hit of Tangled and the less weak animated feature of Winnie the Pooh (wasn’t a bad movie…just not a lucrative return on its investment). Anyway, Wreck-It Ralph seemed like a bit of a departure from the more “traditional” themes and styles of Disney’s animated motion pictures, but still provide enough heart and humor that usually do accompany an animated feature of this particular caliber from the studio. Like many, what I found to be the most assuming and exciting / enticing bits of the movie was all the various classic video game references / parodies that are made throughout the movie. Of course, I got them all and definitely added a sort of “video game nostalgia” to the whole feature. Plus, I did love all the voice talents in the movie (Reilly, Silverman, Lynch, McBrayer, etc.). All in all, I thought Wreck-It Ralph was pretty fun and entertaining movie from Disney that showed plenty of video game / arcade nostalgia as well as poignant / colorful animated feature of how a “bad guy” can be good. Like the line from the movie “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be then me”.

Flash forward to 2018 and Disney releases the follow-up sequel adventure with Ralph Breaks the Internet. Given the nature of the story (and the film ended by tying up a lot of the narrative threads), I wasn’t really expecting a sort of “Wreck-It Ralph 2”; finding the 2012 animated film to be a standalone feature film. Of course, there’s always room for continuation (especially under the Disney Banner) and I did remember hearing a few rumors (here and there) that there was going to be a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph sometime soon. Naturally, that rumor materialized towards the end of 2018 with the film release as well as all the various marketing promos (movie trailers and TV spots). I was also curious to see how the movie would tackle all the variety of “internet” references that were being showcased in the film’s trailers and how the movie would be received by both critics and moviegoers, especially given the fact that Disney hasn’t been known for creating sequels to non-Disney princess tales. Thus, I was definitely interested in seeing Ralph Breaks the Internet and did see the movie a week after its theatrical release (with a friend from work). However, I got a little side-tracked in writing my review for this movie, which is why I delayed in getting it out to you guys (sorry about that). Now, I’m ready to tell you my thoughts on the movie. And what are they? Well, while the narrative does get a bit muddle in few areas, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a solid and entertaining sequel that is bigger and more heartfelt than its predecessor. It doesn’t surpass the original 2012 film, but it’s still a wholesome endeavor that’s full of heart, laughs, and references for all ages.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, with both having a background on the first Wreck-It Ralph movie (Moore directing and Johnston writing). Thus, both co-directors are very much familiar in all facets (styles, setting, characters, references, etc.), Moore and Johnston are the best possible candidates for helming this Wreck-It Ralph sequel. To that end, both succeed in that regard, crafting a follow-up adventure that’s very much cut “from the same cloth”, but is able to visually (and narratively) stand upon its own merits. In a traditional sequel fashion, Ralph Breaks the Internet goes bigger than its predecessor by introducing its main characters that vast and infinite world of the internet, but Moore and Johnston keep a firm grip (for the most part) and trying to get lost within the complexity of cyberspace (there are few key moments that they do, but I’ll mention that below). Suffice to say that the movie does have a larger sandbox to play in, but the Moore and Johnston still keep the feature grounded within the film’s thematical message (more on that below). Additionally, Moore and Johnston know how to set-up particular sequences with either great humor or impactful heart, imparting meaningful moments just as equally as hilarious jokes and gags.

The film’s script, which was penned by Johnston and Pamela Ribon (as well as a story by Moore, Johnston, Ribon, Jim Reardon, and Josie Trindad), draws some parallels to the first Wreck-It Ralph movie (most notable in the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope), but is able to still finding its own footing within its internet / cyberspace context. Thus, balance of the film’s massive setting, the story / plot is more focused on upon Ralph and Vanellope (dropping a lot of the first film’s secondary characters to more minor supporting roles). By doing this, Ralph Breaks the Internet has more time to feature the exploration of the internet (and all the various realms to visit within) as well as spending more time on its two main characters. At the core of the film (stripping away the internet jokes / references) is the sincere and impactful theme / message about trusting your friends and adapting within the respective relationship as each person grows and evolve throughout their own persona lives. Yes, the movie’s script does drive this particular point home hard a few times (especially in the third act), but it’s a very sympathetic and important lesion to pass on to the movie’s younger audience viewers and something that could be extrapolated to viewers of all ages.

While the first Wreck-It Ralph movie had plenty of arcade / video game references (mostly for the older generation of gamers), Ralph Breaks the Internet definitely does speak to the more newer generation, especially in the usage of the internet and all the various websites, games, and social media platforms Vanellope that are at everyone’s disposal with a simply “click”. Of course, it goes without saying that the movie highlights a plethora of various of these internet references from social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), to websites (eBay, Amazon, search engines), and online gaming (a few cameo appearances, including a Fortenite reference). There’s a buttload to find throughout the film, including BuzzTube, a fictional take on YouTube (assuming that Disney couldn’t acquire the rights to the popular video uploading / sharing website) and “Oh My Disney”, a massive fictional place of all things Disney (an unabashed double edge sword from the House of Mouse). Thus, if you’re a fan on all these things, then Ralph Breaks the Internet is littered with theses world wide web icons and references and surely will delight a viewer by trying to find them throughout the feature. My co-worker and I saw this movie and were totally geeking out at all the names, images, and references we caught on-screen. While Moore and Johnston make the film’s internet realm infinitely dazzling for Ralph and Vanellope to explore, the film does also touch upon the more “harmful” (dark side) of cyberspace, especially in the form of online users commenting harshly through cyberspace anonymity. Like in real life, it’s the duality of venturing onto the internet and does bring up a few good value points for some parents to talk about those particular areas to the children (as a wholesome topical discussion).

On the technical presentation, Ralph Breaks the Internet looks visually stunning and colorfully beautiful. Given that this is a Disney animated feature, the studio has spared no expensive in making this animated sequel come to life in a very dazzling and visually stunning way. Thus, I really do have mention that the entire art department (from conceptual art direction designs to the computer animators) does exceptional work in bringing the movie’s setting (and its characters) to life on the big-screen. This also speaks to the movie’s cinematographer (Nathan Warner), which provides some visually compelling (and creative) moments throughout the feature, especially in showcasing the scale and scope of the internet’s realm. Additionally, the film’s music, which was composed by Henry Jackson, is also equally great with variety of music (ranging from wonderous bombastic to soft tender moments) pieces throughout the film’s journey.

There were a few problems that I had with Ralph Breaks the Internet that, while didn’t derail or deter the movie from its overall animated enjoyment, could’ve been slightly better handled in both the storyboard process in the overseeing of the film and in the storyboard process. The most common one is the simple fact of the arena of which the narrative takes place in (i.e. the world wide web). While the first film was set in various classic video arcade games (several, but compacted together), the narrative setting of Ralph Breaks the Internet is vast and large, much like internet itself. The script by Johnston and Ribon does manage to cultivate a linear storyline for Ralph and Vanellope to journey across various areas of the internet and does provide enough storytelling elements throughout. However, the result can be a bit of a mixed bag as the narrative being told does get a bit lost in certain realms of the cyberspace world. This does cause some of the movie’s story / plot moments to be some disjointed as Ralph Breaks the Internet does get a bit sidetracked in trying to provide a lot of flavor and showcase of what’s popular on today’s internet world. This occurs during the film’s second act and does feel the most sluggish out of the three acts and certainly could’ve benefited in the storyboard process. That being said, this mostly fells like only part of the second act as the movie’s narrative does lock on the Ralph Breaks the Internet’s main core thematic message. So, it’s not enough to totally derail the movie, but this particular area could’ve been more refined.

Another problem (although I expected it to be) was all the various internet references and callbacks from what’s currently “trending” in cyberspace. Like I said above, it’s a lot of fun to see all the various websites cameos, internet references, and social media platforms that do appear throughout the film. The flip side, however, is its almost a bit too much…. a sort of bombardment of it all. This kind of thing reminds me of 2017’s The Emoji Movie, a movie that used the various social media / internet tropes that it became almost obnoxious in how the film hammered it all in. Again, giving the film’s premise and how they story was gonna play out, I expected Ralph Breaks the Internet to be like this, so it didn’t bother me as much. However, some pop culture aspects and current internet nuances were a bit “ugh” if you know what I mean. This is most prevalent with the whole “Oh My Disney” sequence. Don’t get me wrong, I completely loved the scene and was laughing throughout the whole thing, but (in hindsight) it just felt like Disney was just flaunting the opportunity to showcase a scene like this unabashedly, especially given the film’s context and the various properties it has in its arsenal. It didn’t bother me as much, but some might find it a bit “beating over the head” from the House of Mouse. I guess it’s a bit in the “eye of the beholder”.

The cast in Ralph Break the Internet is a solid one, with all the voice talents from the various actors and actresses selected are all great across the board (not a single weak link among them). Unfortunately, some do shine more than others, but that’s more of their particular character build in the movie rather than the vocal performances behind them. Of course, at the head of the pack are the film’s two main protagonist characters of Ralph and Vanellope, who are voiced by actor John C. Reilly and actress Sarah Silverman. Reilly, known for his roles in Step Brothers, Chicago, and Guardians of the Galaxy, returns to his post as Ralph and provides an equally hilarious and heartfelt vocal performances in the character. Much like the last movie, Ralph is almost like a big child (prone to fits of angry / frustration as well as using his friendly charm / strength when needed) and this particular movie continues that trend, providing enough context and material for Reilly to evolved and make the character of Ralph become more complexed and endearing throughout his and Vanellope journey across the internet. Likewise, Silverman, known for her roles in School of Rock, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and The Sarah Silverman Project, provides equally solid voice work as Vanellope. Her nasally sound voice makes for a compliment to Reilly’s deeper / simpler voice for Ralph, juxtaposing the very nature of their respective characters. While Ralph was more of the focus in the first movie, the character of Vanellope gets more of the spotlight in Ralph Breaks the Internet, with the narrative revolving more around her. Thus, Silverman gets more screen-time in the movie and makes for a well-rounded character that involves the film’s thematic message of friendship. Together, both Reilly and Silverman share the same great vocal chemistry with each other and it’s beautifully displayed in the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope throughout their trials and tribulations on the internet.

Ralph Breaks the Internet has several notable new characters that Ralph and Vanellope that play supporting roles in the movie. Perhaps the most important new additions in the film are two particular characters of Shank, the bad-ass anti-hero of the online video game Slaughter Race, and Yesss, a trending algorithm who knows how to exploit any online phenomenon, who are voiced by actresses Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman and Fast Five) and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures and Empire) respectfully. Gadot seems to channel her character of Giselle from the Fast and Furious franchise when approaching the character of Shank, playing the sexy and “oh, so cool” sounding voice Gadot is known for and provides a bit more deeper insight into the movie as Vanellope warms up to her. In comparsion, Henson’s Yesss doesn’t quite shine as much as Gadot’s Shank, but here character does get more laughs and plays more of an important part in Ralph’s journey (versus Shank with Vanellope). Still, Henson’s voice perfectly matches Yesss and the character design (and all the various outfits she wears) makes the character memorable in the movie. Together, both Gadot and Henson are excellent additions in Ralph Breaks the Internet, with both having equally merits to the characters to like about. Other noteworthy additions in the movie includes actor Alan Tudyk (Firefly and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as KnowsMore, a character that’s a personification of a fictional search engine of the same name, with an over-aggressive autofill (Tudyk also previously voiced King Candy in the first film), actor Bill Hader (Inside Out and Trainwreck) as J.P. Spamley, personification of a “clickbait / pop-up ads) as a desperate salesman, and actor Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2 and The Da Vinci Code) as Double Dan, a half-worm virus creator on the “Dark Web”.

With the film focusing on Ralph and Vanellope journey through the internet (and the new characters that they meet therein while “surfing the web”), majority of the returning Wreck-It Ralph characters are pushed aside and are, more or less, small supporting roles. Almost all these returning characters have their voice talents reprising their roles, including actress Jane Lynch (Glee and Role Models) as lead character of Hero’s Duty and Felix’s wife Calhoun, actor Jack McBrayer (30 Rock and Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as main character in Fix Felix Jr. and Calhoun’s husband Felix, actor Maurice LaMarche (Pinky and the Brain and Futurama) as Tapper, and Ed O’Neil (Married with Children and Modern Family) as arcade owner Mr. Litwak. Collectively, all these return characters are good (seeing them after the long absences between the two films), but all these characters are secondary…even if they were important to the first Wreck-It Ralph (i.e. Felix and Calhoun). Still, regardless of limited screen-time, their inclusion in Ralph Breaks the Internet is a welcomed one as all of the vocal talents behind them are still as solid as ever. Additionally, director Rich Moore reprises his Wreck-It Ralph minor roles as both Sour Bill and Zangief.

Additionally, in an almost unprecedented way, the sequences that features all the Disney Princesses (yes, I do mention this scene a few times already), utilizes almost all the original voice talents that we (as viewers) know and love from their iconic animated movies. Reprising their roles are Irene Bedard as Pocahontas (Pocahontas), Kelly Macdonald as Merida (Brave), Jodi Benson as Ariel (The Little Mermaid), Lina Larkin as Jasmine (Aladdin), Paige O’Hara as Belle (Beauty and the Beast), Kristen Bell as Anna (Frozen), Idina Menzel as Elsa (Frozen), Mandy Moore as Rapunzel (Tangled), Ming-Na Wen as Mulan (Mulan), Anika Noni Rose as Tiana (The Princess and the Frog), and Auli’I Cravalho as Moana (Moana). Additionally, Jennifer Hale (who provided voice work in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, and the video game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep) as Cinderella, Kate Higgins (who provided voice work in Sophia the First) as Aurora, and Pamela Ribon as Snow White provide replacement “fill-ins” for these traditional Disney Princess (mostly due to the fact that the original voice talents passing away).

FINAL THOUGHTS


Video game arcade friends Ralph and Vanellope journey to the internet and discover the wonders and pitfalls of “surfing the web” in the movie Ralph Breaks the Internet. Director Rich Moore and Phil Johnston latest film sees Disney’s 57th animated feature come alive, providing a fresh take on today’s internet (and its users) and playing up some humorous / heartfelt moments along the way. While the story does get a little muddle in the middle act and some elements don’t exactly land well (i.e. sequences and secondary characters), but the film still retains that classic Disney structure that, while atypical for the studio, succeeds in being a wholesome animated sequel, thanks to the film’s various “internet” nuances and references, some dazzling animation, great voice talents, and sincere gesture of friendship. Personally, I love this movie. Yes, I still think that the first Wreck-It Ralph was slightly better, but I think that this was a sequel film that did not disappoint, especially when one considers all of the recent belated sequels films that have turned up to be mediocre to disappointing. Thus, my recommendations for this movie is a “highly recommended” one, finding the viewing experience for the feature accessible to both young and old. In the end, much like how the first Wreck-It Ralph spoke the older generation of video game nostalgia, Ralph Breaks the Internet speaks to a new generation of internet-users, providing a fast pace (and zany) entertaining animated tale. This is one sequel that doesn’t disappoint.

4.3 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: November 21st, 2018
Reviewed On: December 30th, 2018

Ralph Breaks the Internet  is 112 minutes long and is rated PG for some action and rude humor

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