Wreck-It Ralph is back and he’s had an upgrade, as the reformed video game baddie attempts to keep his new friends happy by travelling into the internet.
In a bid to make the game Sugar Rush more entertaining for a restless Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), Ralph (John C Reilly) creates a new track that, in turn, causes the game’s steering wheel to break off. The only place with a replacement for the antique is eBay, and so the pair travel into the newly-installed wi-fi in order to procure it before the game is retired for good. To raise the funds, they must learn the rules of this confusing new world and attempt to go viral.
Virtually everything about Ralph Breaks The Internet is better, more entertaining, and more inspired than its predecessor, functioning as both a sequel and a new draft of the franchise’s very concept. A lot of the disappointment around Wreck-It Ralph concerned the missed opportunity of a film that could mesh video game nostalgia with a fresh story, but that’s exactly what this sequel does just for starters.
And it’s the starter to one hell of a main course, as Ralph and Vanellope escape the confines of the arcade and dive headfirst into the largest multiplayer game of all time – the world wide web.
While the overabundance of brands and intellectual property present in the trailers are both a main draw and a warning sign for anyone who subjected themselves to The Emoji Movie, they are thankfully not the point. Time is given to a lot of the more charming and novel ideas, such as the delightful Disney Princess slumber party or the obliviously consumerist little human avatars, but this is not a glorified brand partnership.
Whether for legal or storytelling reasons, companies like Google and YouTube are actually sidelined in favour of KnowsMore (Alan Tudyk) and BuzzTube, led by Taraji P Henson’s Yesss. We’re seeing the internet through the eyes of two characters who’ve never even been outside of their arcade bubble and so, a few throwaway jokes and visual gags aside, it would have been distracting for them to be constantly grappling with the software we use every day.
Grand Theft Auto stand-in Slaughter Race is the main centrepiece of Vanellope’s character arc, as she becomes jealous of the freedom and excitement enjoyed by Shank (Gal Gadot) and her crew in this new, modern open world. It’s Princess Peach escaping from Mario Kart and becoming enamoured by the violence and mayhem of an R-rated racing game, and it’s a ton of fun.
Again, as with the first film, the brilliance of Silverman as Vanellope means that Ralph is far less interesting. He gets a solid character journey in Ralph Breaks The Internet, but its one that is often frustrating to watch as we root for his friend to embrace her newfound destiny and become all she can be.
But the film is so rich with wit and detail (and a fun Henry Jackman soundtrack) that it’s easy to forgive a few flaws. The Disney Princess sequence alone would warrant repeat viewings, and the entire thing exudes so much affection and respect for everything it references. For a film about nostalgia at a time when people crave an escape back into their childhoods, it’s a wonder how Ralph never really feels cynical.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is a neat, visually inventive film about the internet at a time when filmmakers struggle to say anything of worth about a technology that changes and evolves day by day in the real world. The film’s flourishes will probably date quite quickly, then, but its core human story of growing up and allowing our friends to grow beyond us is timeless.