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Posted on Dec 4th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck It Ralph, movies, game movies

Wreck-It Ralph was a wonderful movie that took the concept of Toy Story and applied it to game characters in a small town arcade. In the most Pixar way possible, it was well-written, uniquely respectful of the source material, and had a story underneath it all with so much heart that you genuinely cared for the main characters. There was even a small number of real life Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade machines that were made to promote the film. They're pretty rare to find in person, but the game can be played on Disney's website here.

It's been six years since our feels were charmed by Ralph, Vanellope, Felix, and Calhoun, and as the title suggests, the sequel leaves Litwak's humble arcade behind to focus on the entirety of the interwebs. Does the new film manage to keep the personal feel while expanding the adventure? Read on, my friends, for the latest episode of RF Cinema.

Even though the story picks up six years later, not much has changed since the last time we saw these characters. Ralph and Vanellope are best friends, Felix and Calhoun are happily married, but all is not well. Ralph Breaks the Internet has some similarities to its predecessor, and it doesn't take long before we find out that while Ralph thinks his life couldn't get any better, Vanellope is the one with the existential crisis this time around. The precocious princess with candy in her hair always loved the thrill of her races, but after racing the same tracks for so long she's gotten bored and longs for something more. This is made even worse when her Sugar Rush machine breaks and all its inhabitants are without a home after Litwak pulls the plug. Fortunately, the aging arcade owner has just installed a modem in his business, and when Ralph finds out he can go to a mysterious place called eBay to get a new Sugar Rush steering wheel, he and Vanellope make their way across the intertubes with a mission.

One of the best things about the first movie was the strikingly clever way it took a purely digital setting and made it real. The representations of a surge protector plug strip, the power cord conduits connecting it to the games, and the game worlds themselves were not only visually interesting, but satisfyingly accurate. The internet in this movie is portrayed with the same level of thoughtful insight. When Ralph and Vanellope first land in this new digital landscape, it's as stimulating for the audience as it is for them. It looks like a bustling metropolis, with each website being represented either as massive skyscrapers for the bigger sites (Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc), or low key apartments tucked away closer to the ground for the smaller ones. The avatars representing human web surfers look like box-headed Funko Pop figures, and they travel around in little carts or pill-shaped data packets that form around them.

As it turns out, winning the eBay bid for the steering wheel is the easy part. Paying for it proves to be more difficult. In the course of our heroes' travels, they get a taste of overzealous search engines, pushy pop-up ads, fickle online stardom, and other easily-recognizable things the internet has, for better or for worse, brought to society. The most significant of which is Slaughter Race, the most popular online open-world racing game. It has all the danger, excitement, and unpredictability that Vanellope has been craving, and the more she's drawn to it, the more fearful Ralph becomes of losing his best friend.

Shank is the head racer of this online game. She's cool, she's tough, and she's a good person.

This is really the crux of where the story goes. It's about more than just finding where you belong, it's about insecurity in your friendships, the lengths some people will go to keep their friends close, and even dips into toxic relationship territory. I'm not sure if the fact that the prevalence of the MeToo movement has made me more sensitive to such things than I used to be, but I found it especially poignant and relevant in the current landscape. In a similar way to Pixar's Inside Out, this film is a reminder that sometimes the worst villains come from within ourselves.

But I don't want to scare people off by painting Ralph Breaks the Internet as overly political. It's messages are clear, but at the end of the day it's still an incredibly fun movie. It does fall into a similar trap as many other sequels in that by expanding the scope of the setting, it's naturally less focused than the first. The second act gets a bit scattered with a lot of things being presented, but it's all great content, and there's plenty of shots that are packed with references. It's nearly as well-written as the first film, the characters are just as lovable as they ever were, and seeing them explore the fast-paced, meme-filled internet is just as satisfying. One of my favorite scenes comes near the end of the second act, when Vanellope travels to Oh My Disney.

They may be princesses, but they don't need a big, strong man to rescue them these days.

Disney truly is a corporate beast that cannot be fed, and the writers seem to know that. Thankfully, Disney didn't appear to have an issue with them having fun with that concept. Cameos from other Disney properties are short but enjoyable, and handled with the appropriate level of behavioral nuance. I don't really want to spoil any of them, but the Disney princesses are in the trailer, and their presence turned out to be a better addition than I expected. And speaking of the princesses, it's refreshing to say that Ralph Breaks the Internet has a lot of strong female characters. The first movie certainly wasn't lacking in female representation, but this time nearly all of the important characters are women. Again, not to get political, but it's one of those things that shouldn't be notable, but is simply due to its rarity. It's always a great thing when a movie can be excellent both from casual and critical perspectives.

I'm not quite ready to say Ralph Breaks the Internet is as good as the first, but I do highly recommend it. It's not as video game-centric and the narrative isn't as basic and streamlined, but what it lacks in focus it makes up for in heart. It's easily relatable for anyone familiar with games and the internet, the characters are endlessly likable, and the underlying themes deal with issues that are important for everyone, even those who don't know the difference between Pinterest and Instagram.

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I had heard this wasn't nearly as good as the original, but based on your review, it does sound like something I would enjoy. Thanks for the review!
While I didn't enjoy it as much as the original, I agree with you on most of your points in that this is a very watchable and entertaining movie.  My wife, who can be a hard sell, not only enjoyed it amongst a crowd of nine year-olds (at my daughter's b-day party), but said we will be purchasing it on release.  Personally, I did enjoy it, and there were even a few heart wrenching moments.
I very much disliked this movie. SPOILERS Incoming----------I can not think of a single time I've went to a Disney movie in the theater and was bored out of my mind like this. I'm also not quite sure I like a lot of the messaging in this movie (not to mention the entire movie was just ads for online companies). It's super easy to get popular and make a ton of money being a viral video star, spend as much as you want on auction sites and don't worry about the consequences, and pop up advertisements will not only work out ok but lead you to your wildest dreams. Not to mention that Venelope talked a virus away.......ummm what?

None of the humor landed for me outside of the Disney Princesses scene which I'll admit was pretty freakin great. In fact the entire theater we were in on opening night was pretty silent during the whole movie and it didn't seem to get many chuckles even from the kids. Even the after credits joke was spoiled for me simply because I was paying attention to the credits while they rolled. I noticed that "Never gonna give you up" performed by John C Reilly was listed in the music credits and we hadn't seen it in the movie.... I wonder what's next....

My son said he liked the movie afterwards, but unlike most movies we take him to once the next day started he seemed to have forgotten about it. Usually he is telling us his favorite parts for at least a week, but he hasn't spoken another word about this one yet.

I loved Wreck it Ralph and had high hopes for the sequel. Beyond just not enjoying it now I cannot see this movie aging well. 90% of the jokes are already super old and recycled internet memes. It's gonna be rough in 10 years +

This is a silly skit about the movie that I thought was 1000 times funnier than the actual show:
@Crabmaster2000: I agree in that this movie is more dated and can come across as ads for online companies. To be fair though, that's the nature of anything based on the internet. I'm not sure how this movie could be made without that. But yes, the story in the first movie was pretty self-contained so it will certainly age better.


Regarding your thoughts on the messaging, I disagree that it shows pop-up ads will work out and get you what you want. The pop-up ad in this movie didn't work out at all. It led them to Vanellope loving Slaughter Race and meeting Yes, but indirectly. They didn't get one dime from the pop-up ad mission itself. Frankly, I found the looking at water and singing to be more of a dumb cliche message than the other stuff. But I've been pretty bored with the typical Disney princess behavior for a long time. That's probably why I liked most of the princess stuff here, because it was having fun going against that.

Also, Vanellope didn't talk the virus away in the end, Ralph did. And it makes sense when you consider that the replicated virus was just a reflection of Ralph's own insecurity. By coming to terms with his insecurity and choosing to trust his friendship, the virus was basically neutralized. The visual representation of the concept may have been a bit simplified, but personally I didn't have a problem buying into it.

Thanks for the comments! I enjoy a good debate/convo about stuff like this.

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