The follow up to the very successful Wreck-It Ralph ($186 million domestically) takes us out of the nostalgia filled arcade and into the wide and expansive world of the Internet. We follow our heroes, Vanellope and Ralph (voiced again by Sarah Silverman and John C. Reily) as they head into the World Wide Web looking to fix Vanellope’s game. The two find themselves in this predicament when Ralph, looking for a way to cure Vanellope’s boredom, creates a new track for her to race on. This new track leads to a patron breaking the steering wheel and Ralph and Vanellope journey to EBay looking for a new one. The set up for Ralph Breaks the Internet is just as clever and thoughtful as its predecessor. It’s also just as deep. On the surface, it’s a fun adventure through the Internet but at its core it’s a much deeper story about the evolution of friendship and chasing what makes you happy. Much like most animated films, Ralph Breaks the Internet was marketed for kids and the surface level story aims to please that audience. Like the greatest animated films, Ralph Breaks the Internet also reaches adults in a clever and very genuine way. That is the essence of what makes this film so great, its heart.
The great heart of Ralph Breaks the Internet starts with a wonderful screenplay from Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon. The duo was able to pump a lot of fun and clever humor into a very heartfelt story. While there were plenty of Easter eggs and even Meta commentary, the film never lost its way. In the end it is a story about Ralph and Vanellope and how their friendship is evolves and changes. Their quest to get Vanellope’s steering wheel takes them to a game called “Slaughter Race”. It’s here where Vanellope finds the purpose, excitement and adventure that she has been longing for. Their attempted escape from Shank (Gal Gadot) gives Vanellope a real chance to drive the way she’s always wanted and it’s here where Ralph and Vanellope face their toughest challenge. Vanellope’s desire to stay inside this game will change their friendship forever and Ralph will do anything to prevent that. Here’s where the film shined the most. Friendship is always a complicated thing to navigate, even in adulthood. Desires and passions change friendships and sometimes that is a hard thing to accept. We all have found ourselves in both Vanellope and Ralph’s shoes and that gives an extra layer to the film and helps it to land so much better.
This heartfelt, meaningful friendship may be the most impactful element of the film but it’s the Internet itself where a lot of the humor is found. The world that Johnston (who also co-directed), Ribon and co-director Rich Moore were able to create was nothing short of amazing. The way they were able to bring the Internet to life in a tangible representation was incredible. To essentially make the Internet into a giant city was very smart and worked as a great backdrop for the film’s funniest moments. Whether it was “Knowmore”, an information desk fully equipped with auto fill, or the pop-ups, the world they created was full of depth and clever reflections of our relationship with the Internet. Every element of this world was well thought out and conceived, from the birds and their actual tweets all the way down to the virus and how it functioned. This world allowed its creators to cleverly commentate on our complicated relationship with the Internet and social media. It also gave room for a film made by Disney Animation to seemingly right some of its wrongs with its own Meta commentary. When Vanellope runs into all of the Disney Princesses we get the film’s most memorable moments and some of the more clever bits of commentary I’ve ever seen in an animated film. The fact that this film was willing to go there and not only that but handle it with such grace and humor is a testament to just how good of a film Ralph Breaks the Internet really is.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is great in the way that all great animated films are. It works in layers and is equally as impactful as it is fun. The animation is great, the message is beautiful and the whole experience is a ton of fun. A lot of times animated films get written off as being just for kids but this has something for everyone and can be enjoyed just as much (if not even more) by the adults that brought their kids to the film. That is where the true greatness of this film is, an impactful message wrapped in a light and disarming box. Only great stories (and storytellers) can do that, and once again the story of Ralph and Vanellope proves to be just that, great.
4 1/2 stars out of 5
Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore Writers: Phil Johnston (screenplay by), Pamela Ribon (screenplay by), Rich Moore(story by), Phil Johnston (story by), Jim Reardon (story by), Pamela Ribon (story by), Josie Trinidad (story by) Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk Release Date: November 21st Rated: PG Runtime: 1 hour and 52 minutes