Here’s the thing. If Disney think they can get me excited for something other than Mary Poppins Returns for the rest of 2018, then they’ve got another thing coming. In fact, my thoughts have been so consumed with the sequel to my favourite film of ALL TIME that I barely remembered I had a date with a more recent family favourite before the end of December. Step forward Ralph, you’re no Poppins, but it’s nice to see you again.
Set six years after the inter game adventures of Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks The Internet picks up with the introduction of wifi to the Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade, home of ‘Fix It Felix Jr.’s’ Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and ‘Sugar Crush’s’ Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), still the best of pals since their escapades in the original movie. When an arcade customer breaks the steering wheel of Vanellope’s old, out of circulation game, she and Ralph decide to travel to the internet in order to attain the only one left, being held in a mysterious place called eBay!
As you might imagine, the high jinx possibilities for two arcade game characters entering the endless, infinite online world are limitless, and the representation of the internet itself is without a doubt the film’s most impressive and fun feature. Visualised almost as a gargantuan theme park filled with roaming online avatars, the landscape of the film is really fun and stimulating, perhaps even a little too much so as the some scenes feel more like a fight for product placement than slick story telling (although, I suppose that type of bombardment totally defines the online world anyway!). As you might expect, a significant portion of time is spent in the online Disney world, straight up self indulgence on the film’s part but hella fun nonetheless. Viewers are treated to an Avenger’s Assemble style party with all of the beloved Princesses as you have never seen them before. This side adventure adds little to nothing to the main narrative, but there is no doubting that it is one of the highlights of the movie.
Operating underneath all of the stylish, imaginative visuals and fun internet meme references is a super touching thematic thread that has the power to touch all ages. There is a central tension between Ralph’s dependence on stability and repetition in his life with Vanellope, and Vanellope’s own desire to expand her horizons and venture outside of her original programming. Of course, the world wide web provides this opportunity, and the film becomes a metaphor for friends and loved ones being able and allowed to follow their own paths whilst still being close and connected. In many ways Ralph Breaks The Internet is a basic coming of age tale with a massively shiny, busy, vibrant layer of tech aged Disney fun on top of it. Whilst there is no doubting that the metaphor comes through loud and strong, I will say that the core execution of it did feel a little messy and unnecessarily busy, a somewhat convoluted computer virus plot device that could have been portrayed in dozens of other, more streamlined ways in my opinion.
As the main man Wreck-It Ralph, John C. Reilly harnesses all of the goofy buy loveable energy that his voice naturally possesses to create an endearing and fun central protagonist. Even when he is being selfish bone headed to enhance the plot’s key metaphor, Reilly makes it so that you can’t help but root for Ralph, a true adorable giant in a way that only Disney can really nail.
Sarah Silverman gets much more of a joint protagonist opportunity this time around, with Vanellope von Schweetz’s journey of self discovery being at the heart of the majority of the internet related high jinx. The fact that Silverman’s earthy, squeaky, authentic voice isn’t usually associated with the tones of a Disney princess is exactly why she is perfect for the role. Natural comedy timing, a loveable tough girl essence that she effortlessly transfers to the character, it all works wonderfully. Vanellope feels right at home in the company of all the great historical Disney damsels she gets to meet.
Together, Silverman and Reilly succeed in making Ralph and Vanellope a really heartwarming and charming duo. Arguably one of Disney’s best recent portrayals of complicated but strong platonic love, I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear towards the end! Alongside that central two are the likes of Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Bill Hader, Alan Tudyk, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch, all fantastic performers in their own right who provide that extra seal of Disney quality that always extends beyond the aesthetic of the animation.
Overall, Ralph Breaks The Internet is a solid addition to the growing franchise. Perhaps not quite as neat, singularly focused and economically executed as its predecessor, but I can’t blame a kids’ film for being ambitious with a big and important metaphor. There is more than enough fun visual stuff going on to keep the littlest ones entertained, and the deeper message will definitely hit those old enough to receive it. I do wonder how well the 2018 centric details of the internet will age, but for right now, it’s a suitably fun time!