When Wreck-It Ralph was first released in 2012, it quickly became one of my favorite animated Disney films to come out within the last few years. It was innovative, the video game references I grew up with were fun, and it was a perfect starring vehicle to utilize the talents of John C. Reilly. When Disney announced that a second one was coming, it was one of the films I was looking forward to watch this year. After watching the film, even though there are some bumps on the road, I’m happy to report that Ralph Breaks the Internet is a solid sequel.
Set six years after the events of the first film, Ralph (Reilly) and his best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) find themselves traveling to the world of the Internet after Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) recently installs a WiFi connection in his arcade. When a mishap causes a player to accidentally break the controller to Sugar Rush, Ralph and Vanellope have just days to find the part and raise the money before Mr. Litwak pulls the plug on Sugar Rush for good. Along the way, Ralph and Vanellope come across a game called Slaughter Race, which sparks Vanellope’s interest and causes her to question if she wants more to life.
First off, the animation in this film is still absolutely gorgeous to look at. Returning director Rich Moore and co-director Phil Johnston (who co-wrote the first film) and their animators do a good job in separating the different worlds and characters apart to have each stand on their own. Conceptually, Moore and Johnson’s visualization of the Internet to make it a futuristic and Utopic view, works well. Initially, I was somewhat worried that the product placements in the film, since it takes place on the web, would be overbearing or just be paid advertisements for the various apps or websites featured, but for the most part, the filmmakers don’t shove it down your throat, or have the story be compromised with the apps or websites that agreed to be in this film.
Since this is a Disney release, luckily, they don’t overdo the synergy of their various franchises that are featured in this. You can believe the hype you’ve been hearing about Vanellope meeting the Disney Princesses. In an amazing act of genius they got all of the actresses to come back and the banter includes a fun joke at another animation company that Disney owns. The film really begins to hit its groove when Ralph and Vanellope need to find the funds to get the new piece, and some of the skewing of the material is absolutely spot-on and extremely funny at times.
When we view sequels, we tend to see the same song and dance, rinse and repeat again. I appreciate that the screenplay that Johnston and Pamela Ribon concocted in trying to tell something different. If the first film was about how someone who is perceived as bad can become good, this one is about how you grow up and realize that you and your friend sometimes don’t share the same dreams and aspirations as one another and you both come to that crossroad, which is something that I can relate to from time to time. With how they handle it, it’s a nice message and this film wears its heart on its sleeves. Even though we see the Internet these days use for hate and vitriol, this highlights how sometimes the Internet can bring people together for good. Voice wise, the chemistry between Reilly and Silverman is still strong as ever, and they bring some new dimensions to their respective roles that can be quite effective at times. All the other voice actors were good in this and don’t feel out of place, including an uncredited Bill Hader as J.P. Spamley, a figure that Ralph and Vanellope meet along the way, and Gal Gadot as Shank, a racer in Slaughter Race. The cameos in this are fun as well.
Ralph does take a bit to actually get going. Since it’s introducing so many things that at times, it tends to be a little clunky, which is especially evident in the first act. For the 112-minute runtime that this has, Ralph in hindsight, could have been trimmed down in some places as the pacing hits a snag. There are some story threads that the filmmakers introduce that they don’t follow through on, and some of the characters from the first are barely in this, like Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch).
Overall, I enjoyed what Ralph Breaks the Internet brought to the table and what it was trying to accomplish. Reilly and Silverman give it their all, and the filmmakers were smart in having the sequel focus more on them and their growth. With the beating heart that this sequel shows, if they continue making films in this series, I’ll surely be there every single time. If you’re looking for something to watch with your family during this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with this. When you do, I would suggest staying until the end of the credits for something special that will surely bring a smile to your face. On that note, I would recommend watching this in the theater!