OUR grand children saw “Wreck It Ralph” on video several times so they’re excited to see the sequel, “Ralph Breaks the Internet”. We went with them on opening day, not expecting we’d get to like the movie that much, with this sequel being better than the original. It was in 2012 when Wreck It Ralph (voice by John C. Reilly) was introduced to us. He’s a digital character in a video arcade game who starts as a bad guy trying to destroy an apartment building with happy residents, but who later turns out to be good and saves the arcade. It also shows how the sweet friendship between him and the feisty but lonely Vanellope (voice by Sarah Silverman) develops. They’re a mismatched pair of characters from two very different video games who find endearing company in each other and this gives the first film its considerable heart.
Now, Ralph and Vanellope embark on a new adventure involving the internet. Vanellope is bored because her own racing game, Sugar Rush, has become routinary and very predictable for her, so Ralph re-invents it by making her take a new invented route. Because of this, the real girl who is playing her game in the arcade loses control of the game and breaks its steering wheel.
There’s a new wheel for sale on eBay to replace it, but Mr. Litwak, the arcade’s owner, finds it too expensive, so Sugar Rush is now in danger of being retired. Ralph then tries to help Vanellope by getting the part from eBay and in the process, they get out of their video game world, gets inside the modem, and with the help of WiFi, breaks into the new and dizzying megalopolis of the World Wide Web, where everyone seems to be trying to sell something.
This gives the movie a chance to foray into amazing, eye-popping visuals and offer a lot of clever jokes, sight gags and parodies about Internet technology. Inside the Internet world, they don’t know who to approach until they see KnowsMore, a guy who represents the search engines where you can make inquiries in your computer and immediately offers myriad possibilities to answer your questions.
They finally got to eBay where the steering wheel is being auctioned off and Ralph makes the mistake of bidding too high a price for it, $27,001. They now have to come up with that amount in 24 hours or they will lose the item. They seek the help of Mr. Spamley, who tells them how to get rich very quickly, by reselling game winning treasures, like the car of a racer named Shank, which is worth $40,000.
This leads to Slaughter Race, a violent online game that excites Vanellope as it’s a sure improvement over Sugar Rush. They steal Shank’s car and are pursued by Shank and her racing crew, making it a very dangerous game. Shank (Gal Gadot) catches them and teaches them how to do an amusing video of Ralph that will surely go viral and be monetized by BuzzTube head algorithm, Yesss (Taraji P. Henson, who nails the role perfectly).
This is a very entertaining segment with Ralph doing one insane
video after another, collecting hearts or likes from his viewers, with Vanellope using herself as a click bait. Of course, this also makes Ralph vulnerable to bashers whose ugly vitriol and hate that proliferate today in social media is satirized. And as Vanellope wanders in the Internet world, she enters the site of Disney Studios.
This is where she encounters their various familiar characters, including Buzz Lightyear from “Toy Story”, the “Star Wars” robots and stormtroopers, Baby Groot and Eeyore from “Guardians of the Galaxy”, and most hilarious of all, meeting all Disney princesses including Elsa from “Frozen”, Snow White, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”, Moana, Pocahontas, Cinderella (who even threatens to cut Vanellope with her broken glass slipper), Jasmine from “Aladdin”, Mulan, Rapunzel, Merida from “Brave” and others. The princesses give Vanellope some tips and she even concocts her own song, “A Place Called Slaughter Race”, which works with its satirical lyrics.
Vanellope then realizes that she’d rather stay in the Internet and Slaughter Race rather than go back to the arcade with Ralph playing her usual Sugar Rush. It is in this aspect that the movie offers lessons about selflessness and the essence of true friendship (or any relationship) as one learns to let go of his friend to pursue her own dream. At first, when Ralph realizes that he is losing Vanellope, he becomes possessive and does something that creates a deadly Ralph virus that almost causes total disaster for the entire Internet world. He then has to do his best to save not only his friend but the Internet itself from crashing, leading to the usual happy ending but with a poignant note.
The reason why this movie works better than the original is that its directors, Phil Johnston and Rick Moore (they also
did the first one), cleverly expanded the characters’ playground and opened up the action to the unimaginable vastness of the Internet. They then successfully mine all the potentials of its new milieu, spicing it up with a lot of humor. The story and the way it’s presented, with all the bright colorful visual palette and the spectacular action sequences, will make it delightful not only for kid viewers but also for their parents.
If you love Disney animation, you’ll enjoy all the reverential references to their past movies and we’re sure you won’t be able to spot all these pop-cultural references, both the obvious and the more sophisticated subtle ones, as they come in fast and furious.