Going into Ralph Breaks the Internet, I had a fairly solid idea of how I’d react to it. I enjoyed the first one enough and figured the sequel would make for an entertaining and well-animated bit of fun with a strong amount of heart.
However, to a very welcome surprise, this sequel is all of those things and so much more. Not only does it improve on its predecessor, but it develops the characters and world further in a way that is funny and heart-warming, with a spicy lick of social satire.
Following the events of Wreck-It Ralph, our titular hero and his sidekick Vanellope are best friends and spend most of their time either working in their respective games or hanging out across the system. When Ralph’s efforts to build a new track into Vanellope’s game Sugar Rush result in it breaking, they have to find a way to fix it. So, Ralph and Vanellope head off into the Internet to find a part that will fix the game. Along the way they come across various new colourful characters and worlds to interact with.
This premise serves a Wreck-It Ralph sequel perfectly. After the first film set itself amongst the progressing world of arcade video games from ‘80s platform games to shoot-‘em-ups, venturing into the modern internet serves as a fitting follow-up that provides for some of the film’s best jokes. While the excessive product placement around companies such as Google and eBay is there, it is framed in a way that is smart with its placement. Humorous takes on eBay bidding and online pop-ups mark stand-out moments, but the world is littered with subtle background jokes – for example, a seedy motel that is literally named ‘online chatrooms’.
The film wouldn’t work without good chemistry from our two leads: John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. They do not disappoint, with both playing up their character’s most lovable traits and working off each other, making scenes between them funny and some of the most joyous to watch.
Their chemistry, combined with the brilliant touches of animation, also makes the film’s more tender moments that much more heartfelt. A conflict somewhat arises when Vanellope begins to consider leaving Sugar Rush to join the more dangerous online game, Slaughter Race (conveyed by a hilariously morbid riff on Disney Princess ‘dream’ songs). And Ralph’s unwillingness to see his best friend leave provides a sense of drama that’s fresh for adults and a brilliant message for children about respectful friendships.
A movie about Internet corporations that doesn’t sink into cheap product exposure, that’s also full of gorgeous animation flourishes, fronted by tremendous voice acting, likeable characters and world-building that’s smart and funny, Ralph Breaks the Internet is worthy of a slot amongst Disney’s solid run of 2010s animation that includes Moana, Frozen and Tangled.