Ralph Breaks the Internet is a sequel to 2012’s Disney success Wreck-it Ralph. This one is weirder, zanier, smarter and better. Wreck-it Ralph was a surprise, because while it appealed to children, it was also successful with adult viewers, and played off the 80’s nostalgia resurgence that still dominates a large part of pop culture today. It’s the same beautiful candy-colored landscape as the original, and while it has cameos from many Disney-owned properties, and nods to certain things on the internet and the way we live now, it’s not empty or shallow.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) are still the best of friends. Ralph loves his life – he works all day and he hangs out with his best friend at night, and he enjoys the routine of it. She’s straining a bit and is glitching as a result. The owner of the arcade installs something scary and new that the arcade game characters don’t know how to react to – Wi-Fi! Shortly after, the steering wheel on Vanellope’s game breaks and Ralph and Vanellope must go into the internet and try to find a new one before it’s too late.
My main criticism of this movie is how mundane and archaic they make the arcade look. While arcades have gone the way of Blockbuster Video in recent years, you wouldn’t know that by looking at the first movie. In Wreck-it Ralph, it’s an animated world-building fantasy wonderland. Here, it’s just where they live until they go to the internet, which is its own lush, candy-colored utopian landscape. And while the movie keeps throwing names of websites and apps at you, it doesn’t feel like it did when The Emoji Movie did this, where the constant referential nature felt empty and got old very fast. It’s probably because only some of the websites mentioned in this movie are real, and others are designed for the movie itself.
There’s a scene teased in promotional material for this movie where the characters wander into the Disney website, and it’s the best part of the movie. I was surprised at what they were able to get away with, this being a Disney property, after all. It is simultaneously trashing certain things about the Disney brand and celebrating them and also acknowledging how ridiculous it all looks. Vanellope wanders into a room with all of the Disney princesses, and even though this scene is teased in promotional materials, the best parts aren’t in the trailers. It’s clever and wildly funny.
The voice cast in this movie is absolutely stacked. Reilly and Silverman are so good, and both have genuine emotional arcs. Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Henson have supporting roles and are both having a lot of fun. Bill Hader, Alfred Molina show up, as well as Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer, reprising their roles from the first movie. We have lots of other cameos as well, so keep an eye out.
Rich Moore returns to direct with first-time director Phil Johnston. It’s faithful to the characters and emotionally affecting while being this zippy, bright, next-level thing. While the movie strains and gets a little ridiculous near the end to make its point, it’s a point worth making. This big, shiny, zany, candy-colored delight of a movie has a poignant message about friendship that is like the rest of the movie, good for children, but might be even more affecting for adults. Ralph Breaks the Internet is well worth a trip to the movies.