Ralph Breaks the Internet

When a sequel is announced for a film that has already tied up all its narrative threads, you have to wonder if this is a) a cash grab (“Cars 2”) b) the exact same film but not as good (“Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason”) or c) the creators just loved the universe they had created so much they wanted to keep playing in it (“Shrek 2”).

So where does “Ralph Breaks the Internet” fit in? Much closer to “Shrek 2” than “Cars 2”, and with an surprisingly important message – it’s dangerous to tie your identity to someone else, and Disney Princesses have led some pretty messed up lives. Granted, the first message is more important, but the second is most entertaining for the adults.

Between films, Ralph (John C. Reilly) has latched onto his role as Vanellope’s (Sarah Silverman) friend like a dog locks his jaw on bone. While this is manageable in the contained world of Litwak’s Arcade, out in the big bad world of the Internet, where the autofill is a touch aggressive, pop-up ads are surprisingly effective (possibly the least realistic thing about this film), and Disney is everywhere (possibly the most realistic thing about the film), Ralph and Vanellope are drawn in different directions, and Ralph must not only confront a YouTube(ish) comment thread about him (genuinely rough as anyone who’s visited YouTube can attest), but how good of friend he really is.

Everything that has made an impact online gets a name check here, even screaming goat memes. eBay gets the special treatment since it houses the film’s McGuffin (the only arcade wheel left to save Vanellope’s Sugar Rush racing game), but the most impressive animation comes from the world of Slaughter Race, a nod to Grand Theft Auto, randomly also a trick that worked surprisingly well in “Ride Along 2”. Man that is a messed up game.

Besides Ralph and Vanellope, the original “Wreck-It Ralph” characters get left behind, however there’s enough to explore in the new world to keep the pace of the movie in high gear. There’s something about the need for planning when creating an animated film that means there’s very little wastage, and every scene builds on the next one. This is something Disney and Pixar have always excelled at.

Any film that takes on the internet as a topic is a brave one, because the internet changes so fast that I’m not even sure selfies are still considered an expression of narcissism or just an accepted part of our online representation of identity and a guaranteed good angle. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” wisely doesn’t go near this topic. But what it does address is the notion of friendship, that sometimes being a good friend means supporting them to go somewhere you can’t follow, and that you shouldn’t rely solely on someone else to make you feel whole.

While this is a film clearly marketed for kids, any story with a good message, seering humour, and impressive visuals can be enjoyed by all ages, and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is certainly one the adults will enjoy almost as much as the kids. One for the whole family.

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