As a lover of the 2012 hit, Wreck-it Ralph, I was doubly concerned and excited to see its sequel. (Perhaps I was more concerned…) The only teaser that amused me was the scene where Vanellope offers to call protective services for the oblivious Disney Princesses. Other than that, every preview showed the same shameless, vibrant, product-placement environment that animation studios have been exploiting for years. I wanted Disney to do better. Despite that, director Rich Moore and Phil Johnston still delivered an enjoyable flick … even if it pales to the original. Let me explain its “good”, but not “exceptional” qualities.
Following the events of the first movie, Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope are enjoying their careers and friendship. After logging in their 9 to 5 hours, the duo spends each evening talking, snacking, and creating harmless mischief. But because this is a sequel, the writers have to throw in unrest. Vanellope is bored. After achieving her racing dreams and discovering her identity as Sugar Rush Princess, there is nothing left to strive for. Her game’s racetracks have become repetitive and dull. To help, Ralph builds or “wrecks” a new track for Vanellope. Unfortunately, a child thinks the game is malfunctioning and they accidentally break off the steering wheel/game controller. While the other children quickly find a replacement part on eBay, it’s too expensive for the owner to buy. Feeling responsible, Ralph decides to travel to the internet to bring back the missing part. Accompanied by Vanellope, Ralph discovers more on his journey than how to fix something broken. But again, this isn’t a masterpiece.
Here’s where Ralph Breaks the Internet hits the nail on the head.
Similar to the first film, Ralph Breaks the Internet is visually stunning and showcases typical, high-quality animation. The script (while not as funny as the first) is still clever enough to garner real belly-laughs. The returning voice cast gives another great performance. Most notably of all, Disney somehow brings charm to this sell-out environment by remaining very self-aware. Instead of treating the internet like a serious universe – the writers take great liberties in poking fun at click bait, the mindless herd effect of viral videos, and Disney itself. New side characters (Spamley and Yes) embody the satire with charm. With just enough entertainment value and social commentary, Ralph Breaks the Internet fixes the mistakes of similar films (e.g. The Emoji Movie) … but it’s still not quite a 5-star flick.
Upon first viewing, it seemed like the plot ran all over the place. The bottom-line message of the film caught me off guard as if someone changed the channel halfway through. Ironically enough, when I saw the film a second time, I felt like I was being beaten over the head with the “hidden” message. Perhaps I’m a child that gets distracted by jingly keys, but once I had seen the movie, the underlying message was clear within the first ten minutes. I understand that Disney movies are predictable, but the great ones aren’t so … placating in their delivery. Additionally, the conclusion lacks the emotional satisfaction of the first. This sloppiness puts this film in the category of decent Pixar sequels. Not amazing. But worth seeing.
All in all, it was nice to visit Ralph, Vanellope, and their digital world once again. As for their story though? I may focus on the 2012 happily ever after.