I’ve been writing these reviews for so long now that I’m starting to forget what I have and haven’t looked at. I could have sworn that I wrote a review for “Wreck-It Ralph,” but that came out in 2012 and I didn’t start reviewing until the summer of 2013. I guess it’s a little hard to believe that “Wreck-It Ralph” came out six years ago. To this day, I’m still impressed by that movie for its love and admiration for video games, its unique visual style for the vast video game worlds and Wreck’s arch of redemption and purpose in a world that is quick to label him as a villain.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” picks up right where “Wreck-It Ralph” left off, as if no time had passed at all, but some of the fundamental charm and appeal of Ralph and his verbose attitude is severely missing from this film. Instead, Disney replaces the eccentrically misguided behavior of Ralph with tons of internet jokes, in-jokes and references to social media services and Disney themselves, especially their princesses. On its own, this works fine and gets a very good laugh every once in a while, but compared to “Wreck-It Ralph” I can’t help but feel like this is a step down.
As video game characters Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Venelope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) spend their days in the same routine, Venelope eventually complains that she wants something new and exciting to happen. When Ralph grants her wish, it results in her video game breaking and the owner of the video game shop pulling the plug on her game. So when Ralph learns that he can get the part they need to fix Venelope’s game through a mystical place called “eBay” they launch into the internet to save her kingdom and every character in it.
Like “Zootopia,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet” seeks to create a vivid, colorful world filled with astounding feats that would make anyone want to visit it, much like a theme park. In this case, the internet is portrayed as a vast metropolis built to satiate desires both wondrous and grotesque, populated by avatars and digital creatures that thrive on being popular. And just like “Zootopia” the film doesn’t go all the way to make this world feel fully fleshed out by not having all the social media platforms. While things like Twitter, Google, Amazon and eBay are brought up, others like Facebook and YouTube are not, in favor of a made-up service called BuzzTube. So it’s a little strange that they can get Google and have eBay be a huge part of the movie, but they can’t say YouTube.
However, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is never lacking in charm and style, much like its predecessor. The characters are still just as likable and it is imaginative to see the inside of the internet like something out of a science fiction movie. While their motivations are different and Ralph is no longer played as the misunderstood villain, Reilly and Silverman still manage to make these characters just as likable and funny as they were in the previous film. And even if this doesn’t really add anything to their characters, their wide-eyed innocence as they explore the internet and think eBay is some game that they can win makes this a fun ride nonetheless.
I can see children loving this movie to death, not just because of it has Disney, Star Wars and Marvel references while poking fun at them, but because the movie has such a childlike perspective of the internet. Ralph and Venelope act more like children in this movie than the previous one, and while that may be a step down for some, that makes their whimsical journey more about self discovery by the end. It often feels like a fantasy set in a world that today’s children can understand.
Overall, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” isn’t as good as “Wreck-It Ralph” but it doesn’t try to be. It may have some of the same characters, but a vastly different setting and dynamic that makes our mundane world seem fantastical. It is a cute, charming family film with a good sense of humor, especially when Disney is poking fun at itself. If you have kids, they should love this movie from start to finish, and if you enjoyed “Wreck-It Ralph” then you’ll like this one fine.
Final Grade: B