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Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Directed by: Phil Johnston and Rich Moore

Premise: A sequel to Wreck-It Ralph. Video game characters live inside the circuits of an arcade that has recently acquired Wi-Fi. Vanellope and Ralph travel into the internet to find a replacement part for her racing game. Once there, Vanellope discovers new possibilities.

What Works: Ralph Breaks the Internet is a worthy follow up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph. The new film has some stellar animation but it’s also surprisingly mature and intelligent. Wreck-It Ralph took place inside of the world of arcade games and the movie had a retro feel. Ralph Breaks the Internet expands the setting and the online world is terrifically detailed and beautifully crafted. The visual style shifts from the classic analog look of the first film to a digital point of reference. Ralph Breaks the Internet is full of clever images and the filmmakers find effective ways to concretize the abstract concepts of the internet. They also put some thought into the nature of digital platforms and include some of the web’s major institutions like Google and Youtube and eBay as well phenomena like pop up ads, click bait, and malware. But as visually impressive as Ralph Breaks the Internet can be, what is most impactful is the characters. The sequel inherits two well defined protagonists with an established relationship and Ralph Breaks the Internet fulfills the duty of a sequel to take the story to the next level. The first film was a fairly standard learning-to-accept-yourself tale familiar to family movies and two unlikely companions formed a friendship. The sequel is about that friendship adapting to change. When Vanellope and Ralph travel to the internet, they discover the world of a racing game where Vanellope feels at home while Ralph just wants to go back to the arcade and maintain the status quo. The lead characters of Ralph Breaks the Internet deal with complicated issues. Ralph is so consumed by his possessiveness that he acts out in a villainous way and Vanellope discovers that what she really needs is not what she originally thought she wanted. That’s more sophisticated than a lot of films made for adults and Ralph Breaks the Internet dramatizes the evolving nature of life and relationships in a way that is very truthful. It also makes for very effective drama and the ups and downs of Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship has a genuine emotional impact.

What Doesn’t: Ralph Breaks the Internet is reminiscent of The Lego Movie in several respects, among them the way it shoehorns in every licensing opportunity. This is a Disney film and Ralph Breaks the Internet never lets us forget it by including cameos of their signature characters, namely the Disney princesses, as well as references to the company’s major subsidiaries like Marvel and Star Wars. Just as in The Lego Movie, the brand placement becomes a bit much and Ralph Breaks the Internet occasionally feels like a promo reel for Disney’s business empire.

Bottom Line: Ralph Breaks the Internet is playful and fun but it also has some serious substance about friendship and adjusting to change. This film is further proof that family films don’t have to be stupid or simplistic.

Episode: #729 (December 16, 2018)