Though uneven, the 2012 animated movie Wreck-It Ralph still managed to be a good time thanks to some inventive and insightful jokes about video games told by multilayered characters with real chemistry. Not surprisingly, the sequel Ralph Breaks The Internet has many of the same qualities…and many of the same flaws.
Set six years after Wreck-It Ralph,
Ralph Breaks The Internet has the titular video game baddie [Talladega Nights‘ John C. Reilly] and his BFF Vanellope Von Schweetz [Battle Of The Sexes‘ Sarah Silverman] heading onto the world wide web when someone breaks the steering wheel on Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, and the duo overhear that they can find one on eBay. What follows is not just another round of video game jokes, but also a ton about the Internet and other things, all framed by a testing of Ralph’s and Vanellope’s friendship.
Like in Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks The Internet makes a good amount of insightful and, more importantly, funny jokes about video games and video game culture. Except now they’re less about classic games and more about modern ones and the way people play them. When Ralph and Vanellope end up in a combat racing game called Slaughter Race, for instance, it serves as a spot-on parody of how gritty some modern game can be in comparison to their arcade ancestors.
But things go a bit awry in Ralph Breaks The Internet when it starts to poke fun at online culture, as most of the jokes are similar to ones we’ve already seen, well, online. The jokes about pop-up ads are about as welcome as real pop-up ads, while the instances when Ralph inserts himself into common memes miss about as often as they hit. Granted, the Internet jokes do get better later in the movie, but even then, they still sometimes fall flat.
Things get decidedly funnier…
when Vanellope visit’s Disney’s website, and the movie starts to make smart — and, more importantly, new — jokes about the company that produced this film. This is especially true when Vanellope meets Cinderella, Anna and Elsa from Frozen, and the other Disney princesses. Their conversation about the nature of being a Disney princess, and the musical number that follows, are not only insightful, but hilarious as well, and I say that as someone who hasn’t seen most of those movies but still knows all the cliches.
Even when Ralph Breaks The Internet does tread familiar territory in the Disney realm, it still manages to put unique spins on things. The jokes about about Star Wars, the Marvel movies, and the passionate fans of both may not be wholly original, but they still manage to be biting and funny.
There’s also a weirdness to Ralph Breaks The Internet that is unexpected. It’s impossible to cite an example without spoiling it, but suffice it to say there are a couple of instances when you’ll laugh at loud at something for being funny as well as odd and from out of left field.
But where Ralph Breaks The Internet really shines is with Ralph, Vanellope, and their interactions. While others might’ve played up the older brother / younger sister aspect, or the smart kid / dumb adult one, Ralph Breaks The Internet instead treats them like equals and true friends, and their bond not only feels real and natural, but it makes this movie a true buddy comedy when it could’ve just been a series of pop culture jokes.
the realism of Ralph’s and Vanellope’s friendship comes, in larger part, from the voice acting of Reilly and Silverman, who are as good here — both on their own and together — as they were in the first film. Silverman is especially good at voicing a likeable little girl. And while most of the other characters, be they new or returning from Wreck-It Ralph, don’t get as much screen time, most of them make good use of the time they do have. This is especially true of Alan Tudyk [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story], who voices the search engine KnowsMore, Alfred Molina [Monsters University] as a shady deep web merchant, and Bill Hader [Saturday Night Live] as the pop-up ad Spamley.
The exception to this is Taraji P. Henson [Hidden Figures], whose sass is wasted as Yess, an algorithm from the video sharing site BuzzzTube. While Henson does what she can with the part, it’s a character that doesn’t add much to the proceedings.
Yess notwithstanding,Ralph Breaks The Internet also deserves credit for often avoiding the obvious (save, as I mentioned, for many of the Internet jokes). While the story does touch up on the pitfalls of reading the comments, and the #MeToo issues raised by the backstories of so many Disney princesses, it’s only a touch; this never gets preachy or heavy-handed, which would’ve ground this film to a halt. Similarly, while the jokes about games, the Internet, and Disney require some knowledge to get, they’re decidedly more for readers of Entertainment Weeklythan The Hollywood Reporter.
All of which is why Ralph Breaks The Internet…
is on par with Wreck-It Ralph. Neither are perfect, but they are both funny and have some real emotional depth that make them one level up from your typical animated comedy.