A big ‘ol pile of meh.
There’s nothing like sitting in a crowded theatre watching parents corral their children, figure out seating arrangements, and argue about food orders, to affirm how badly I don’t want to have any of my own. When one frustrated mom finally got all her kids settled, one girl in the middle yelled, “mommy I have to pee!” Immediately the mom yells back, “I knew this would happen!” I laughed. I’m evil. Okay, Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)!
I was not a fan of the first Wreck-It Ralph (2012). It wasn’t the worst thing to come out of the House of Mouse – cough, Home on the Range (2004), cough – but I found it thoroughly unmemorable and haven’t felt the need to watch it since. I’m sorry to say that the sequel left me equally as unimpressed. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, video game characters Wreck-It Ralph and his best friend Vanellope von Schweetz travel into the Internet to purchase a steering wheel for her damaged game Sugar Rush. Along the way they enter the worlds of online gaming, social media, viral videos and more. Although the plot is overly simple, the movie scores points for setting it up quickly, as well as giving the protagonists motivations that feel organic and true to character. Vanellope is tired of the same old game that she’s been racing in every day for the last six years, while Ralph is worried that the one true friend he’s ever had will grow tired of him too.
This is a sequel that feels earned. It wasn’t made solely as a cash grab or a way to satisfy Disney fans until Frozen 2 (2019) is released. Instead, the story acts as the natural progression for its lead characters, having them explore ideas and themes that feel right for their characters. Although at times both characters felt like they had undergone a total re-write. Vanellope is far more serious than the loud-mouthed child from the first movie, and Ralph is dumbed down for the sake of dated jokes and stale physical comedy.
Speaking of characters, two of the main characters from the first movie, Fix-It Felix Jr. and Sergeant Calhoun, are horribly underutilized in the sequel. They’re crammed into a couple of scenes, almost like an afterthought. It’s as if the filmmakers went, “cool, we’re finished making the movie! Oh crap, we forgot to include two characters people liked form the first one…Oh well, here are some scenes at the beginning and the end we can drop them into.” It felt super forced and unnecessary. The story is about Vanellope and Ralph’s strained relationship and their adventure into the Internet. Why bother adding these glorified cameos?
Perhaps leaving Felix and Calhoun out of the main narrative was wise on the movie’s part. The sequel is filled with so many fun, new characters that there just wouldn’t have been any room. Setting the story in the world of the Internet opens the door for a number of interesting and unique characters to be introduced. KnowsMore, a search engine algorithm with an overly-excited autofill, is an adorable new addition played by Alan Tudyk, a Disney veteran who voiced King Candy in the original movie. Though he only appears in a couple of scenes, Knowsmore is a memorable side character that feels straight out of the Disney renaissance. Honestly, the Sultan from Aladdin (1992) was the first character that came to mind.
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, the award for best scene-stealer is a tie. Yesss, an algorithm that determines what videos are popular enough to be included on the social site BuzzzTube, is played to perfection by the eternally charismatic Taraji P. Henson. Stylish, zany, and determined to help Ralph and Vanellope earn money to pay for the steering wheel they need, Yesss is a much-welcome dose of fun and energy in this by-the-book sequel. Plus, Taraji P. Henson is utterly enjoyable in everything she does. She’s often praised for her roles in Empire (2015 – present) and Hidden Figures (2016), rightfully so, but I don’t think she gets enough credit for being able to be just as hilarious as she is serious.
Tying Yesss for best scene-stealer is Shank, the badass top racer in the online game Slaughter Race. Shank is voiced by the flawless Gal Gadot and you guys, the animators literally just drew Gadot when designing Shank. Do you know how cool you have to be to voice a “tough-as-nails” racer and then have the character end up just having your face? Super cool. Mega cool. Wonder Woman cool. Shank is adventurous, wise, compassionate and fiercely loyal, traits that when coupled with her general badassery, will assure that she’s everyone’s favourite new character. Shank totally deserves a spin-off.
Okay, let’s talk about it. The scene everyone in the theatre was looking forward to and if we’re being honest, the reason why most people even bought a ticket to this movie, myself included: All 14 Disney princesses on screen together for the first time in cinematic history, and for the majority, voiced by their original actresses. You guys, this was hands down the best and most enjoyable scene in the entire movie. Duh, how could it not be? Expertly-written, hilariously self-aware, and thoroughly enchanting, I never wanted the scene to end. It was SO. MUCH. FUN. Honestly, Vanellope meeting the princesses should have just been its own short film. Ugh, can we please just have a full-length movie where all the Disney princesses live together? Maybe also they fight crime? Not mad about it.
For me, Ralph Breaks the Internet was highly reminiscent of Finding Dory (2016) and Incredibles 2 (2018), two movies I was severely unimpressed by. Critics keep raving about these animated sequels that I find to be totally bland, middle of the road, and not nearly as good as their predecessors. It’s not just critics who are completely in love with these movies. Adults in the theatre were losing their shit like this was the funniest thing they’d ever seen and it was just fine…I chuckled a few times but people were having breathing problems. Calm down guys, it’s not The Emperor’s New Groove (2000). Sigh…I have to re-watch that soon. It’s THE BEST. Like Finding Dory and Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet is entertaining enough, but ultimately unmemorable and a pale hollow imitation of a much better movie. I doubt that anyone will say this is their favourite Disney movie.
As disappointing as I found Ralph Breaks the Internet, I will say this: It’s wildly inventive. The world behind our computer and phone screens that the movie fleshes out is a visual spectacle and feels real and exciting. I could have spent the entire runtime of the movie just watching Ralph and Vanellope explore popular apps inside and out. I imagine it was difficult to create a world based off the Internet considering The Emoji Movie (2017) did the same thing only last year. I’m sure the creative team wasn’t worried though because let’s face it: it’s not very difficult to be better than The Emoji Movie. I still can’t believe that actually got made.
Are you a fan of Wreck-It Ralph? What’s your favourite Disney movie?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!