Genre: CG Animation
Director: Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Sean Giambrone, Flula Borg, Timothy Simons, Ali Wong, Hamish Blake, GloZell Green, Irene Bedard, Kristen Bell, Jodi Benson, Auli‘i Cravalho, Jennifer Hale, Kate Higgins, Linda Larkin, Kelly Macdonald, Idina Menzel, Mandy Moore, Paige O’Hara, Pamela Ribon, Anika Noni Rose, Ming-Na Wen
RunTime: 1 hr 53 mins
Released By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Website: http://disney.com/ralphbreakstheinternet
Opening Day: 22 November 2018
Synopsis: In “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” video-game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and best friend Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) leave the comforts of Litwak’s arcade in an attempt to save her game, Sugar Rush. Their quest takes them to the vast, uncharted world of the internet where they rely on the citizens of the internet—the Netizens—to help navigate their way. Lending a virtual hand are Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), the head algorithm and the heart and soul of the trend-making site “BuzzzTube,” and Shank (voice of Gal Gadot), a tough-as-nails driver from a gritty online auto-racing game called Slaughter Race, a place Vanellope wholeheartedly embraces—so much so that Ralph worries he may lose the only friend he’s ever had.
‘Wreck It Ralph’ saw the titular video-game’s bad guy go on an epic hero’s journey, and for the most part was steeped in a 1980s nostalgia that probably only its adult audience would appreciate. But the 2012 release also established the sarcastic ‘Sugar Rush’ racer Vanellope von Schweetz as the game’s long-lost princess, and as unlikely as she might have seemed a Disney princess, it was precisely how it had subverted the wholesome, kid-friendly mould of singing princesses which made it so fun and endearing.
As an example of how this sequel takes the spirit of irreverent fun even further, ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ has a sequence where Vanellope runs into the entire bevy of other Disney princesses. While the rest are at first wary of how un-princesslike she is (no weird clothes, no animal companions, and no singing), they eventually embrace her for being one of them, on account that people assume her problems were solved because a big, strong man showed up. Oh, Vanellope also proceeds to teach them the value of wearing comfortable clothes (t-shirts anyone?), and that encounter sets her on a path towards her own inevitable maturation.
But first things first, how does an arcade video-game character get into the World Wide Web? The answer is as simple and as existential as the survivial of the 'Sugar Rush' video game machine, which owing to a broken steering wheel, could very well be unplugged forever. The replacement, as Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) learn, is on something called eBay, so both cast themselves via Wi-Fi in order to it down. Blame it on monotony really: six years since the end of the first movie, while Ralph is enjoying life in Litwak’s arcade, Vanellope hankers for more. More significantly, that desire to grow and change will lead to a devastating rift between Ralph and Vanellope, especially as Vanellope becomes enamoured with a free-to-play violent racing game named ‘Slaughter Race’ and decides to make permanent her stay in the world of the Internet.
At its core, this is really a buddy movie that explores the nature of close friendships. After accidentally overhearing a conversation between Vanellope and ‘Slaughter Race’s’ best racer Shank (Gal Gadot), Ralph becomes worried that he might lose his best friend to the Internet. That deep-seated sense of insecurity prompts him to release a virus capable of unleashing a DDoS attack that will eventually, you guessed it, break the Internet. Parents be warned: the climax, which sees a whole swarm of tiny Ralphs combine to form a King Kong-like mega monster to destroy the sprawling metropolis that the Internet is depicted as, is genuinely unsettling, and you might want to cover your children’s eyes.
Still for the most part, the Internet is seen as a cheerfully teeming city where each of the big Internet brands occupy sizeable real estate – what with eBay rendered as a massive auction floor, videosharing service BuzzTube as a crowded hall with people begging for likes and Google as the equivalent of the Empire State Building. A search engine is an information desk manned by a egg-shaped chatterbox with an overenthusiastic auto-fill, and pop-up ads are miniature billboards wielded by panhandlers who shove them in your face until you click on them or push them away. It is to the credit of directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston that there is almost too much to fully appreciate in just one viewing, especially how they have filled each frame with inside jokes, memes and references to online culture.
Like we’ve previously described, it isn’t just all sheen and gloss, and within the bounds of a PG animation, both Moore and Johnston also depict the ills of the Internet. Notably, after putting down a ridiculous bid amount for the steering wheel, Ralph and Vanellope have to find some way of raising the cash, and the former turns to BuzzTube’s fast-talking head algorithm Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) for advice on how to be an internet sensation. While trying to retain his popularity against cat videos, Ralph stumbles upon a whole litany of nasty comments from Internet users, and his emotional devastation will resonate with anyone who’s ever been the subject of trolls and harassment. Just as unsavoury is the dark web, which Ralph is led to by a shady pop-up ad (Bill Hader), depicted here as a warren of dilapidated buildings and smashed pieces of web 1.0.
That said, even as it portrays the unsavoury parts of the Internet and packs a cautionary tale within, the movie for the most part remains an Easter Egg-filled movie with delightful pop culture references, including and especially that belonging to the House of Mouse (watch out for Vanellope’s encounter with Iron Man and Stormtroopers). No matter which demographic you belong to, ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ is a richly imagined sequel that is ambitious in its conceptualisation of something as wild, wacky and weird in the Internet. It is also beautifully animated by the way, and surprisingly clever both in terms of its meta-jokes and thematic sophistication. Like the Internet therefore, it has something for everyone, although in this case, it’s ultimately very much for the better.
(Ambitious, beautifully animated and surprisingly clever, this richly imagined sequel portrays both the wonders and ills of the Internet through a poignant buddy movie)
Review by Gabriel Chong