Ralph Breaks The Internet is the story of Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz’s (Sarah Silverman) evolving friendship. Six years have passed since the two worked together to save their respective old-school retro arcade cabinet games and prove to their fellow characters that they were not the outcasts they had been labeled as. The pair has settled into a safe, reliable routine, but Venellope feels a desire for something more to combat her increasing boredom. When an accident physically breaks her game, Venellope travels with Ralph to the Internet to find a replacement part and they embark on a grand adventure, discovering a few lessons about being a good friend along the way.
What works in Ralph Breaks The Internet are the references and themes. It is incredibly difficult to make a movie in the modern era that relies on current technology and trends, given the alacrity with which such references can become dated. Ralph Breaks The Internet does a very admirable job of visualizing and representing such online titans like Amazon, Google, and Twitter in a way that feels both fresh and humorous. Much like Wreck-It Ralph, this sequel also folds in several cameos from various franchises, now expanded to include Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney in mostly meaningful ways. The Disney princesses (14 of them with the majority voiced by their original vocal actors) in particular get some exceptionally poignant and laugh-out-loud moments, stealing the show whenever they appear on screen. While the youngest viewers may not understand all the nods and puns they will likely squeal at the physical humor, while parents will chuckle at the subtler gags—Wreck-It Ralph is the rare family film that will engage across a wide age spectrum.
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If Wreck-It Ralph was a story about acceptance, Ralph Breaks The Internet is about understanding and expectations. The creative team was wise to focus the story primarily on Ralph and Venellope as two individuals who truly care about each other but need to acknowledge that their paths through life might diverge, and that’s a healthy development for each of them. Also laced into the narrative is a lesson about the positives and negatives of the Internet regarding its ability to promote expression but often at the cost of opening up one’s self to virtual vitriol through wide exposure. For the most part, parents can feel good about the parables being promoted.
While Ralph Breaks The Internet shines with wide appeal and multi-dimensional characters, there are few elements that audiences might take issue with. First, Venellope becomes attracted to a racing game called Slaughter Race which uses violence as a defining characteristic. Ralph Breaks The Internet makes it clear that the characters in the game are simply playing roles like actors, but detractors of that type of media might see it as glorification. Second, while the set dressing is timely, it is most certainly temporary. There exists a high probability that most of the references in Ralph Breaks The Internet are anachronistic within a decade or less. And finally, while the runtime is fairly quick at one hour and 52 minutes, the third act plays out a little long with a few unnecessary side quests that feel tacked on just to add a very specific joke or represent a particular website.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is lovely family film that will appeal to the core family—young kids through adults. While it has some questionable narrative decisions, they are scant and easily overshadowed by the creativity, humor, and heart.
Final Grade: A-
Recommended if you enjoyed: Wreck-It Ralph, Toy Story 2, Zootopia