Standing as perhaps one of Disney’s best original animated properties outside of Pixar in over a decade, the Wreck-It Ralph films are part of a franchise that I truly want to see be done with TLC. There’s something inherently fun about following the role of a misunderstood villain and in the format of a kids film there’s a surprising amount of angles that can be explored in helping the audience understand villainy and friendship. If your hopes were to see this franchise succeed well, I’ve got something to tell you; but more on that later.
Ralph Breaks the Internet continues the journey of the well-meaning video game villain Wreck-it Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his young companion Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a young girl with a glitchy disposition. Many years after the adventures of the first film both Ralph and Vanellope’s life are spun out of control as they’re forced to enter the wondrous and confusing world of the internet.
When Ralph and Vanellope enter this world I was all too curious to see how well Disney would handle the world wide web; especially after the dumpster-fire that is The Emoji Movie (2017). As Ralph and Vanellope wander the internet playing games and shopping online they’re confronted with intrusive ads, viral videos, scams, hate comments, rampant social media, and much more. This excess of over-stimulation felt sadly appropriate and representative of modern internet culture, despite having a family friendly spin on it. As the story drags along I felt as if the film wasn’t heading in any specific direction, much like Ralph and Vanellope were as they aimlessly wandered through the vastness of the web. With no clear villain or grand goal on the horizon I felt worried that this film may not satisfy. Oh how wrong I was.
As the story pushed forward the moral behind their journey entered the spotlight in an unconventional way. Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship is put into question and the characters are faced with confronting moral and philosophical choices. This emotional centre was bolstered by the solid performances from John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. Reilly as Ralph brings back much of that desperate impulsive persona that was seen in the first installment. Silverman banks on her character’s softer and more vulnerable side and amplifies it. These characters are a fantastic pairing and allow this story to dig deep and explore the many things that make relationships complicated and imperfect. This film’s structure was unconventional from the beginning and it all leads up to an unconventional climax that subverts.
The first Wreck-It Ralph film was set in the candy themed world of Sugar Rush. In Sugar Rush we are exposed to high levels of rainbow colours as its main visual theme. This film favours excessive information clouding your field of vision over colour. Your eyes certainly feel overwhelmed by the popup screens and images, this was an effective visual component for representing the cluttered style of the web. This excess not only extends to the visual side, but also to the production choices. Product placement may be an issue for some people in this film, just based on principle. Disney certainly favours itself in this film, displaying just how many franchises are under its belt, but thankfully deny large social media sites a platform. This was a smart decision as too much product placement feels like it violates a part of the movie-going experience. While this commercialization is certainly present it does little to detract from the powerful message that this film sends. Much like The Lego Movie (2014) you can still learn from its message on a personal level despite it being an underlying advertisement for Lego.
Disney upped the ante in this sequel by setting up my emotions and knocking them down. This is how a sequel should be done, with deepened characters and a new narrative direction. Disney provides us with a respectable and frankly ballsy move to end this sequel on. Ralph Breaks the Internet reaches an all-time high score, elevating its characters to new levels and earning more than enough points to tenderize your heart.