‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ is a love letter to the digital age

 By Ryen Thomas 

November 24, 2018

Just in time for the start of the holidays, Disney delivers the animated family film, Ralph Breaks the Internet! It’s the sequel to 2012’s Wreck it Ralph and a love letter to the digital age where Disney turns the internet into its very own magic kingdom. Tech giants like Google, eBay and Snapchat serve as massive sections of this world, on par with Disney World’s Tomorrow, Frontier and Fantasyland. The more we discover the world, the more we rediscover the joy and awe of exploring the online sites that are now part of our everyday lives.

John C. Reilly returns as the voice of Ralph, the lovable softy and our avatar exploring the brave and online frontier. Sarah Silverman also returns to help give more angst to Vanellope, Ralph’s gal pal and reluctant Disney princess. Other familiar characters also reappear like the mild mannered Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his beloved wife, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) who’s definitely more tender and less tough-as-nails this go round.

John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph and Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

There are new great additions like Yesss, played by Taraji P Henson. Yesss, is an algorithm that helps social videos go viral on Buzztube. She has the snazzy style of Cruella de Ville, but has the charm of Cookie Lyons (Henson’s feisty character from her hit show Empire) and is all-knowing like a fairy godmother who uses the magic of tech to help our heroes get what they want. Gal Gadot rounds things out as Shank, the top dog heroine of a dangerous racing game called Slaughter Race (it’s basically a clone of Grand Theft Auto). Shank is a go-getter, a wonder of a woman (pun intended) who gives Vanellope inspiration to explore and know that life (on and offline) is what you make of it.

Ralph, on the other hand, gains an unexpected challenge from Shank that goes beyond the floodgates of internet pop culture to exploring what the film is really about: friendship. Ralph and Vanellope have the kind of unlikely friendship that one would only find behind the confined walls of a summer camp. While in their safe place, they are two peas in a pod, but a thirst for new adventure highlights what makes them different. Ralph is nice, but unfortunately consistent and destructive, while Vanellope creative and adventurous. While their codependency has plenty of charming and admirable moments, it’s not long until we see its toxic and stifling side.

John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph, Taraji P. Henson as Yesss, and Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Ralph senses more and more the things that can tear him apart from his best bud and because of that, works overtime to make sure his relationship is the one thing that he can’t wreck. However, the very things he uses to maintain that relationship threaten their entire world by conjuring up the nasty parts of the web that serves to deepen division in culture. It’s the underbelly to the Time Square-esque frontier that we first encounter in the film.

The mildly questionable moments are countered by loads of sincerity and a push for authenticity in society. Ralph Breaks the Internet is a cute little Disney movie that perfectly uses current pop culture to tell a endearing story. To drive home the themes related to empathy and not controlling others, there’s dialogue that’s wise, refreshing and relevant, and mostly carrying the light intensity of lines from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. This, being a kid’s flick, that doesn’t mean the dialogue is bad, but a fair warning for the older cynics in the audience.

Because all the lessons learned put the characters on such a finalized path, I’m left wondering if this’ll be the first and final sequel in franchise. Toy Story 3 created a similar feeling but we’re getting a fourth one of those in 2019, so who knows?

With Ralph’s addition to the Disney animated pantheon, the question is: will it be remembered like Toy Story and the Disney films that came before it? My assumption is that while the movie is extremely fun and entertaining, the answer is probably no, save for a few hilarious scenes that ironically involve all the Disney Princesses and drum up an abundant amount of nostalgia. But, while it doesn’t reach the standards of a timeless classic, it still accomplishes what it sets out to do by delivering a fun and entertaining ride through American internet culture.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 

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