Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Disney’s latest animated release, Ralph Breaks the Internet, marks the sequel to an effectively six-year-old film that was proclaimed as one of the most memorable works from Disney Animation Studios, the Academy-Award nominated Wreck-It Ralph. With such high acclaim across the board, there is a distinct level of pressure that returning directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore must be feeling. However, both the filmmakers and cast are able to make good on the promises that a sequel to the 2012 hit would forebode, delivering a charming experience that is propelled by its aesthetically pleasing world. But while its world builds in spectacular fashion, its story quickly collapses into a repetitive and formulaic nature that when compared to recent animated releases from Disney, including Pixar, feels out-of-touch and confusingly forgettable. For a movie that has multiple scenes that include fourth-wall breaking lines with Vanellope and an extensive roster of Disney princesses, the fact that this sequel quickly fades into blank space should be wary for Disney. For every step that Ralph Breaks the Internet makes to forward its rich and lively world, it consequently takes a step back from telling a cohesive story that does justice to its two lead characters.
Telling the story of Vanellope and Ralph after a traumatic event where Vanellope’s game is effectively broken and in risk of being removed permanently, the film immediately sends the audience scrawling into the Internet, a wise choice as the earliest sequences began placing an uncomfortable impression of déjà vu. As seen in the trailers, the Internet is a scrawling place that is charming at every turn. At my relatively early screening full of press, laughs and gasps constantly echoed in the auditorium as Ralph turned his head one direction to reveal Amazon and the other to reveal a charming swarm of bluebirds soaring towards Twitter. These sequences are what make the film work on an objective level. However, it is also what makes it fail on an artistic level.
With such a grandeur set of impressions towards the Internet, it seems as if the filmmakers felt as if they needed to cram every possible form of web browsing into the plot as well as a healthy dose of Disney product placement. It leads to a scenario where the film is oddly disjointed, particularly in the second act where it seems the film doesn’t really know to do with itself other than flash attempts at comedy pertaining to social media. But the film is ultimately able to regain its footing towards the final act, as the film begins to explore some morally complex themes that may not be new for the animation genre, but are poignant nonetheless. Seeing the potential destruction of Vanellope and Ralph’s relationship over the benefits and detriments of the Internet was an emotionally driven set of sequences that fascinatingly mirrored the world we live in today.
As for its comedy, the lines are as crisply written as ever. Each attempt at comedy mostly works, especially given the film’s insistence to remain on the surface level of thematic material that can be explored. John C. Reilly as Ralph turns in a charming performance as always with his body and facial movement being brilliantly animated onto the big screen. While there aren’t many notable supporting characters outside of brief cameos, Gal Gadot as Shank shines in the film, contributing to a fast-paced action sequence that occurs early onto the film that was both instantly iconic and stunning to behold.
But the clear stand-out of the film is Sarah Silverman as Vanellope. In relation to its predecessor, Ralph Breaks the Internet gives the character far more to do and explore. The mystification and wonder that awaits the character at every turn was fascinating to witness but also dreadful to see for Ralph. In fact, the film frequently separates the two characters, a clever choice that allows both Reilly and Silverman to explore their characters as separate entities rather than two sides of the same coin.
Ultimately, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a cluttered, confused collage that places its product placement and charming world above proper characterization and storytelling. Climaxes in the story could have been reached in a mere thirty minutes, but it takes the film 114 minutes to reach it. Yet, the film still remains satisfying, even if falls far behind the star-studded trail that its predecessor blazed.
Score: 6.8 out of 10