Saturday, May 11, 2019

Viral Videos?

Film: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on The New Portable.

When Wreck-It Ralph came out, I was incredibly excited for it. It was very much one of those films that felt like it was made for me. It was a huge chunk of nostalgia for me, something that felt like a chunk of my past put on a movie screen. It was a big enough hit that a sequel was almost guaranteed to happen. And the closer that the reality came to fruition, the less I was excited about it. So, while I knew I was going to have to watch Ralph Breaks the Internet.

We can start with the name. I realize that “breaks the internet” is the saying that gets used, but seriously, they couldn’t call this Ralph Wrecks the Internet?

Anyway, we’re going to be dealing with the same set of characters here, at least in part. Ralph (John C. Reilly) spends his day in his video game and, when the arcade is closed, hangs out with his friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) in the other video games (particularly Tapper). For Ralph, this is the perfect life and he has everything he needs. Vanellope, though, is starting to get bored of her game. Wanting to help, Ralph enters her game and tries to build her a new track. Vanellope is excited by the track, but while she tries to drive it, the player resists and ends up breaking the steering wheel. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the company that made her game has gone out of business, and the steering wheel can only be found on eBay. However, the owner of the arcade doesn’t want to spend the money.

The solution? Ralph and Vanellope enter the internet via the new wifi router and head to eBay to bid on the steering wheel. They’re unclear on the concept, though, and end up bidding against each other and run the price up to a ridiculous amount. Now they have a limited amount of time to get the money to buy the part or Vanellope will lose her game and become homeless.

Essentially, this is all a chance to get Ralph and Vanellope to explore the internet and to make a series of internet-based jokes. We’re going to get pop-up ads, internet personality quizzes, search engines, and quite a bit more. There’s also some really well thought out action with the Disney princesses, since Vanellope is essentially a Disney princess.

The real point of Ralph Breaks the Internet is to explore the friendship of the two main characters. Vanellope has grown past the bounds of her game, having only three tracks to race on and wants more than the life she has with Ralph. Ralph, thinking that her wanting more means she doesn’t want to be his friend becomes clingy and possessive. It’s an interesting lesson for kids, I think, and one that a lot of adults could stand to learn as well. Because this is the story, there’s a lot less of the side characters from the first film. Fix-it Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch) are here, but only show up a couple of times.

It’s cute. There’s a nice new cast of characters. A Google-style search engine (Alan Tudyk) has a couple of scenes, and Vanellope eventually finds an online racing game populated by a bad-ass racer named Shank (Gal Gadot). The pair are also aided by a spambot (Bill Hader) and a YouTube-style algorithm named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson).

So why am I a little disappointed? I’m not sure, but it feels like in trying to do something more than the first movie, it’s moved too far beyond the mythology created in the first film. I understand that it had to do that. There wasn’t really another story that could be told in the world of the first movie, but this one seems a little diminished despite opening up into a more expansive world.

Ultimately, I like the idea of this and the attempt at continuing the characters, but it feels like an overreach. I want to like it a little more than I do, but I guess I like it well enough.

Why to watch Ralph Breaks the Internet: It really, really wants to be as good as the first one and almost is.
Why not to watch: It can’t quite capture the unbridled magic of Wreck-It Ralph.


  1. I agree that this wasn't as good as the first movie. Your remark that the sequel "moved too far beyond the mythology created in the first film" resonates with me; you may recall my review of the first movie compared it to the Bhagavad Gita. Mythology, indeed. The first movie seemed generally more mythic and heroic in nature.

    1. That's my take on it, too. While I think this is a very good movie and I'm happy I watched it, it also feels far too self-aware for its own good, which is more or less what I was trying to say above and couldn't get out. It had been a hard week, and words are tough sometimes.

  2. Sounds like I enjoyed this more than you did, but I totally get your point. I also agree that it's not as good as the first one, which is just perfect.

    But I did like that it's a reasonably deep exploration of friendship and growing up and apart. I also liked that there's no villain, just Ralph's insecurity. And the Disney Princess scenes are worth their weight in gold.

    One of the trailers for the movie has a joke about why it isn't Ralph Wrecks the Internet but that exchange isn't in the movie. Sorry, Disney, but you don't get a pass for a bad film name by ironically joking about it in a commercial.

    1. Oh, and it's AWESOME that each Disney princess, save for one or two, are the original voice actresses.

    2. In all honesty, the Disney princesses are the best part of the film. The initial scene with them as well as their interaction with Ralph is fantastic.

      I also like Vanellope's song, which ties in perfectly with the Disney princess scenes.

    3. It cracks me up how Merida just stares angrily for the whole scene.

    4. Well, except for when she says something incomprehensible.