It’s been a year of sequels for animated Disney movies. The conglomerate-owned studio Pixar released the long awaited second chapter of The Incredibles 2, and now, just in time for Thanksgiving break, Walt Disney Animation Studios (Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia) has released Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph.
While the first film took a more nostalgic approach to video game movies, featuring plotlines, jokes, and characters drawn from arcade games and retro references, Ralph Breaks the Internet leaps into the new and exciting world of the internet.
Ralph Breaks the Internet does this perhaps too soon. While the first movie took its time, exploring the arcade in which these video game characters reside, chasing each other through different video games, Ralph Breaks the Internet abandons this setting nearly immediately. Skipping out on another solid plotline set within this smaller area for the potential draw of flashy websites or social media platforms, the sequel takes its first, staggering steps into a medium filled with the potential for becoming immediately dated as a work of art.
The problem with movies like this, about the internet and pop culture, is that the real-life references lose their value as soon as society has moved on to the next thing. The Emoji Movie is one such case.
But Ralph Breaks the Internet sidesteps much of these problems, focusing more on the characters and their actions. The movie places these internet icons in the background, where they serve more as a landscape than as plot pieces.
The crux of the film is that Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) must journey into the internet to find a real-life steering wheel to save Vanellope’s game before it is unplugged. Along the way they find friends and enemies, but in spite of it all the characters, and the audience, learn a valuable lesson about friendship. Heartwarming moments abound, laughs are had, tears are shed, and the movie ends on a high note.
In other words, Ralph Breaks the Internet is like most other animated Disney movies. In one other word: good.
But in still more words, Ralph Breaks the Internet is probably the best internet movie in recent memory. In less recent memory, it’s Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. But that aside, this movie does a lot of things very well.
The animation is fluid and smooth, full of lively and eye-catching colors. Unlike other movies based on video games (Assassin’s Creed, Ready Player One, Prince of Persia), Ralph Breaks the Internet is vibrant and engaging.
The bits and jokes are all pretty good to great. There are, of course, a few that might elicit more groans than laughs, but Ralph Breaks the Internet contains one of the best scenes in Disney history. Vanellope goes into the Disney website area of the internet and meets every and all of the princesses: Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Aurora, Elsa, Anna, Moana, Pocahontas, Mulan, Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, Tiana, and Merida. Over the course of their conversation, Vanellope realizes that she too is a princess because, as the others explain, a big man is always trying to save her or do things for her or tell her what to do. The princesses also try to explain to her how to “sing a song” like a princess. They explain that often, while they stare into “important water,” the surrounding lights will dim, they will be illuminated in a soft glow, and they’ll be filled with the words and melody of a beautiful song.
This self-referential and self-aware bit is one of the biggest points in favor of seeing this movie— and it helps Disney remind everyone of a few more of their properties. Ralph Breaks the Internet also features bits spoofed on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as the Star Wars franchise. All funny, but also all worryingly owned by Disney.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is a sequel like most others. Fun, good, nostalgic—but not as much as the original. This is a great Thanksgiving movie for Disney and for families, but it’s no Coco or Moana like years prior have had.
Featured Image by Walt Disney Animation