Sequels used to be an really iffy business. But, “Cars” notwithstanding, the crew over at Disney/Pixar seem to be able to defy the odds again and again, producing interesting, exciting, and often emotional new adventures for characters whose race you thought was run.
Case in point, the “Wreck-It Ralph” sequel, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” hits emotional beats the original didn’t even hint at and still manages to be fun and inventive all at the same time.
This time around Ralph and his little buddy Vanellope, both members of a small but close-knit community of video game characters who populate a suburban video game parlor straight out of 1985, find themselves in trouble when an attempt to change the humdrum routine results in a broken part on the Sugar Rush racing game and a potentially homeless horde of candy-based characters.
Turns out the only way to get the part they need is to try eBay, where a single collector has it for sale. This opens up the video parlor, for the first time, to the larger internet, and Ralph and Vanellope are in for the adventure of a lifetime. As they make their way through the urban jungle that is the World Wide Web, they are accosted by pop-ups, nearly killed inside a violent racing game, and taken in by a Youtube-style impresario who thinks she can make Ralph a star.
For Ralph, the goal is to make enough actual money to be able to afford the broken part and get his life back to normal, but Vanellope is slowly coming to the realization that maybe “back to normal” isn’t what she wants at all.
One of the best things about both of these “Ralph” films is not the main characters but the ephemera. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, consummate entertainers though they are, are kind of my least favorite thing about the movie.
Instead, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is packed with wall-to-wall references, in-jokes and tiny hidden details that reward careful viewing. There are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos of everyone from Stan Lee to Riley from “Inside Out.”
I loved the scene when the Twitter logo flies onto a branch and starts tweeting a meme, which is immediately picked up by all the other birds in the tree. Videos are portrayed as giant concerts and eBay is an endless series of auction rooms.
The internet is cool, but the movie really hits its stride when our heroes venture into the Disney portal. So many different properties to play with.
It’s in the trailer, but the scene with all the Disney princesses hanging around in a well-appointed lounge is hilarious. Vanellope talks the girls into switching their gowns for lounge-wear and the attention to detail is awesome, from Elsa’s T-shirt sporting the phrase “Just let it go” to Rapunzel’s beanbag-style chair made from her own hair.
I really enjoyed this movie, but it’s not perfect.
It does a good job of hinting at the darkness of some avenues of the web and you can tell as the environment gets shabbier, Ralph is heading into places he might want to avoid.
Where it falls, however, is in addressing the toxic nature of fandom and the cowardly way many people approach comments sections for videos and the like.
At one point Ralph, who has become a “BuzzTube” sensation, wanders into a room where he finds walls of ugly comments streaming by, floor to ceiling.
“Just try not to read them” is the advice given to our heartsick hero, but that does nothing to address the behavior of the people doing the commenting, some of whom are, presumably watching this movie.
This was a missed opportunity to really quash a behavior that is, in my book, reprehensible.
Not that I think one movie going to change everyone’s behavior, but it might have made a few people think. Instead, it put the responsibility on Ralph to simply avoid things he doesn’t want to hear.
That criticism aside, I liked this movie a lot. I don’t know that I was clamoring for a “Wreck-It Ralph” sequel, but now that I have one, I’m eager for more! Grade: A-
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is rated PG for silly cartoon mayhem and mild rude humor.
By Chris Jenness