film & game reviews, the retro way.
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
John C. Reilly
Taraji P. Henson
Taking a page out of "beloved" animated "classic" The Emoji Movie, the sequel to Disney's 2012 video game-themed feature Wreck-It Ralph turns its attention to the internet, where Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) travel to in order to save the latter's arcade game.
We pick up the story months after the first film ended as Ralph and Vanellope go about their days doing their respective jobs, occasionally jumping into other arcade games for fun (drinking root beer in Tapper, racing in Tron etc.). Everything seems hunky dory until Vanellope voices that she's a bit bored with her daily routine and wants more. Looking to help out, Ralph enters Sugar Rush and creates a random path in the game, which gives Vanellope the challenge she was looking for but also confuses the player of the game who ends up breaking the arcade machine's wheel. Since the replacement part needed costs a bit too much on eBay, the Sugar Rush machine is promptly unplugged and Vanellope finds herself gameless until further notice. Ralph's solution is to break into the internet, find eBay and somehow get the new wheel delivered. He and Vanellope discover a whole new world beyond the arcade and their friendship is put to the ultimate test.
Pulling these characters away from a retro game setting was certainly a risky move for this franchise, one that could have easily turned audiences off completely. Luckily, the film is competent enough to not stray too far from what made the original film so enjoyable. There is certainly a more cynical approach to this movie as real online brands are splattered all over the screen constantly and the portrayal of the internet is kind, to say the least. Not to mention Disney's shameless self-promotion throughout which, while younger viewers will no doubt enjoy seeing their favorite princesses in the movie, doesn't really make a whole lot of sense in this particular story. Having said that, Vanellope's princess song is irresistible and the best scene in the film by far.
Ralph and Vanellope's friendship is the main focus here and the film really goes out of its way to make this part of the movie feel genuinely heartfelt. Vanellope's dream becomes to join an online racing game called Slaughter Race, where every race is a real challenge and, although Ralph wants to make his friend happy, he is also torn because he knows that this might mean he'll have to let her go.
Ralph Breaks The Internet's take on friendship is actually pretty brutal and, although it later tries to put a positive spin on things, it's overall a bit of a downer. The message, that sometimes you have to give your friends space to pursue their own dreams, is true but it's the unspoken implications of it (maybe long distance friendships can't survive) that are particularly heartbreaking, if also true. The film manages to somehow have its cake and eat it too: it's basically just one big soulless ad for Disney and various other brands but it also has a strong emotional core and it takes its characters in a bold direction. There's a film as tear-jerkingly good as Toy Story 3 in there somewhere but there's a bad Emoji Movie lodged in there too, one that you can't help but feel stains the whole thing quite a bit. There are enough cool car chases and fun character moments to keep you going, on the plus side, and the visuals are admittedly gorgeous.
This is a more bittersweet movie than you'd expect and it should annoy as well as charm in relatively equal amounts. For every well done emotional moment, there's a groan-inducing eBay/Amazon/Pinterest/etc. reference, so this is a bit of a mixed bag but it manages to stay afloat thanks to how much it cares about its characters and, of course, the slick animation.
Uneven but worth a click.