Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE
A review of “Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” hit theaters on Nov. 21 and took the box office by storm. The film, a sequel to Disney’s 2012 hit “Wreck-It Ralph,” was well-received by critics and movie-goers alike. It was one of Disney’s highest grossing animated film premiers, and ticket sales have continued their momentum as the weeks progress. The film is delightfully entertaining, with visual effects and a thought-provoking storyline that will keep viewers of any age entertained.
While “Ralph” does not break the mold of a typical Disney film, it does thrive within its confines. Directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore toe the line between creating children’s entertainment and producing an astute allegory of the harmful effects of internet culture and the over-consumption of media. In the film, a WiFi router is plugged into the hub where all the character’s arcade games interconnect. Its looming gateway and the inevitable path it leads to the Internet signals that the universe established in “Wreck-It Ralph” is about to change.
Since the events of the first film, the friendship between fictional ’80s arcade game character Wreck-It Ralph played by John. C. Reilly and the kart-racing Vanellope von Schweetz played by Sarah Silverman is stronger than ever. However, there are some early signs that expose the flaws in the characters and their relationship. Ralph, desperate not to become the lonely outcast he was in the first film, clings to his friendship with Vanellope. He has everything he ever wanted, and does not want any aspect of his life to change. Meanwhile, Vanellope has become complacent and bored with her life, and yearns for something more. These contrasting views cause tension between the two. Throughout the movie, they explore the idea that, in order to grow as people, they might have to grow apart.
The story’s main conflict arises when the steering wheel on Vanellope’s game “Sugar Rush” breaks. Unable to afford a new wheel, the manager of the arcade unplugs the game, leaving Vanellope and all the “Sugar Rush” characters homeless. Ralph devises a scheme to break into the newly added internet router and buy a new wheel from eBay. The rest of the film centers around the two characters navigating their way through the boundless online world and trying to earn enough money for the wheel to save Vanellope’s game.
Much of the film’s success can be attributed to the stellar voice performances of the cast. Reilly’s deep tenor perfectly encapsulates Ralph’s gentle-giant persona. He brings vulnerability and softness to the character, making Ralph’s struggle to overcome his insecurities even more poignant. Meanwhile, Silverman’s raspy, high-pitched portrayal of Vanellope steals the show. The comedian somehow manages to create an adorably annoying heroine in Vanellope; Silverman’s comedic timing is unbeatable, and she handles the emotional scenes with a raw, human sentiment that makes Vanellope interesting and three-dimensional.
“Ralph” has also been rightfully praised for its stellar animation. Creating a world where video game characters of different genres interact is a difficult feat, as they are each drawn and animated differently. Managing to place them together on screen without it being distracting or off-putting is a testament to the talent of the artistic team. This latest film challenged its animators even further by having Ralph and Vanellope venture into the world of the Internet, which had to be visually invented for the film. Each online site and social media outlet is its own world. The film creates a physical representation of the internet and the result is inspired. Moore discussed the creative process for designing the world of the Internet with Vulture. He stated that the online world “felt like it was this city that had strata of other cities just built on top of it, with the newest kind of being on the very top level.” The internet in the film is an infinite metropolis that is constantly under construction and renovation. The movie is stunning to watch, and it truly captures the essence of the internet, and how it can be both enchanting and overwhelming at the same time.
The film is full of fun pop-culture references and clever one-liners about everything in the Internet’s stratosphere as well. A personified pop-up add played by Bill Hader appears throughout the film to distract the main characters and introduce them to nefarious online activity, such as the dark web and computer viruses. Stan Lee makes his first posthumous cameo appearance. The final battle scene takes place, ironically, at Pinterest.
A highly-advertised and praised scene unfolds when Vanellope travels to the Oh My Disney website. There, she encounters all the Disney princesses and talks to them about what it is like to be a princess. The crossover of all the princesses, most of whom were voiced by their original voice actors, is delightful to see. The scene plays with nostalgia while also allowing Disney to make a pointed jab at itself for its past shortcomings in the representation of women. The scene is hopeful, as the young Vanellope makes it clear that princesses will no longer rely on pretty dresses or strong men to get what they want out of life. She then proceeds to show the women what sweatpants are. Seeing Moana and Mulan lounging around in pajamas is utter fun for all ages to be a part of. The film is worth seeing for these aspects alone, and the amount of hidden references and jokes could keep one entertained for the entire 128-minute run time.
What the film ultimately accomplishes, though, is an intricate and provocative story about friendship and the pursuit of self. Beneath silly jokes and colorful settings, Ralph and Vanellope undergo serious maturation and character growth. On their mission in the Internet, Ralph and Vanellope get momentarily distracted by an online racing game called “Slaughter Race.” Immediately, Vanellope is impressed. While she felt uninspired by her video game in the arcade, “Slaughter Race” is something she can be challenged by. Its origin in the internet allows for constant updates and improvements. This contrasts the limitations of “Sugar Rush,” a dated arcade game that Vanellope has outgrown. Vanellope’s tenacity and fearlessness attracts her to the challenges of the unknown that lay within “Slaughter Race’s” coding. Ralph, who is content with a simple life, struggles to understand and support his friend’s desires. The film takes the time to truly explore what each character wants out of life, a heavy question to be pondered in a children’s feature, but it works. Vanellope comes into her own as a person and Ralph learns what it means to be a good friend.
All of this seems like a lot to take on for one movie — and at times it is. Especially when one factors in the inevitable slapstick physical humor and (surprising) song number that comes with any Disney film, there is hardly enough time to cover everything. There are moments when the film feels as though it is doing too much; however, it manages to tie everything together by the time the end credits roll. “Ralph” is an example of a sequel film that successfully builds upon its predecessor. It adds depth and development to its characters while keeping their original integrity in place. The story fabricates a classic tale of friendship in a modern setting and pushes the bounds of emotional maturity within a children’s film.
Written by: Alyssa Ilsley — firstname.lastname@example.org