A Sequel That Deserves to Go Viral
Chris Kavan - wrote on 11/30/18
The original Wreck-It Ralph was a brilliant send-up of video game culture and the sequel does the same thing for our obsession with all things online. Social media? Ultra-violent games? Rampant consumerism? Yup - that's all there - oh, and don't worry, there are a lot of Disney princesses too.
Ralph Breaks the Internet picks up six years after the original (wouldn't you know - the same amount of time that has passed in reality) and Ralph (John C. Reilly) and the glitched-out racer princess Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) have become best friends and fallen into a familiar routine. By day, they play out their roles in their respective arcade games and by night they hang out at Tappers, talking about their day and drinking smooth root beers. While Ralph is very content with this set-up, Vanellope longs for something new to shake things up.
Ralph, being the friend he is, takes the opportunity to create a new track for Sugar Rush. But this also results in the steering wheel breaking and Mr. Litwak (Ed O'Neill) explains the company has gone out of business and the only replacement comes from Ebay, where he is unable to justify the cost of a cool $200 to replace the wheel on the aging game. Thus all of the characters find themselves without a game once it becomes unplugged. Luckily for our gang, Mr. Litwak has recently installed a WiFi router - opening the whole of the internet to Ralph and Vanellope, who make it their goal to track down the wheel and save Sugar Rush from the scrap heap.
The internet is presented in a smart, fun way - each person online is represented by a cute little avatar while most of the big sites (Google, Twitter, Amazon, Ebay) are presented as skyscraper-like structures with the avatars zooming around in floating pods. It is fun to see the sites we know and love, but the filmmakers also create some original creations: the viral video palace of BuzzTube (an amalgamation of BuzzFeed, YouTube and a bit of the old Vine thrown in) and the ultra-violent sandbox racing game Slaughter Race (obviously inspired by Grand Theft Auto, among others). Each also comes with a great new addition to the cast - Yesss, the algorithm always looking for the next big thing, played by Taraji P. Henson and Shank, the badass with a heart of gold (and her crew) of Slaughter Race - with Gal Gadot providing her voice.
But Ralph works not just because of the sly winks at the audience, but also because it has a lot of heart. The meat of the story is about friendship and simply figuring out how to let go. Ralph wants things to stay the same whereas Vanellope wants greater freedom - a freedom she finds in Slaughter Race. It gets so bad that Ralph develops high insecurity - and that is very bad for the Internet, especially when you introduce a rogue virus into the picture. I also like that, even if it's not a huge part of the film, at least the film acknowledges the toxic nature of online culture.
But enough of that, you want to be entertained, right? So Ralph has got you covered with the highly-advertised Disney princess scene. Vanellope finds herself at Oh My Disney - where Star Wars, Marvel and, yes, the princesses, are all on full display. Trying to get Ralph some viral love, she runs afoul of some Stormtroopers, finds her way backstage and lands in the room where all our princesses hang out. After revealing she herself is a princess, the girls have an impromptu sleepover. Just the fact they brought together all these voice actresses, from Jodi Benson (Ariel) to Auli'i Cravalho (Moana) is impressive enough and even if it's just for a few lines, it is plain fun to see them all together. Even Kelly Macdonald (Merida) gets in on the action, even if it is near-unintelligible Scottish (the rest of the girls explain she's from "that other studio"). Even if the trailers spelled out most of this scene, it's amazing and, don't worry, the girls return for another scene near the end that is probably one of my favorite scenes from any Disney film, complete with theme music. The girls aren't the only surprise as we also get to see a cameo from the late, great Stan Lee and even if he doesn't have any lines, including him here is a nice touch for a man who left a huge legacy behind.
If there is a fault with Ralph Breaks the Internet it is that while we get a lot of Ralph and Vanellope, a lot of other characters are left behind. Sure, we catch up with Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch) but their contribution is little more than glorified cameo appearances. And poor Alfred Molina might get about five minutes of screen time as the Dark Web virus dealer Double Dan. Plus, it's impossible to catch half the references so you know they want you to come back and rewatch - I'll just wait until I can see it at home to catch 'em all.
All in all, Ralph Breaks the Internet is an excellent sequel, one that lives up to the original and even adds in some new twists. I, for one, really hope they try for a third if only to see what they come up with next, but if this is only going to be a two-fer, it's worth your time.