Released a little earlier than most movies for the holiday season, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a sequel that was designed with the whole family in mind. Here’s why…
When Wreck-It Ralph came out, it was a bit like Spielberg’s Ready Player One before that movie had even begun shooting. Tons of fun little references to video game classics (and a few more obscure ones as well) made it a movie that was fun to see for parents who grew up in the age of videogame arcades and were looking to share the experience with their kids.
Of course, these videogames mainly served as the backdrop for a heartwarming story about the friendship between Ralph (John C. Reilly, who is in every other movie this holiday season) and Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman). But in a day and age where people love little references, cameos and tie-ins, a lot of the appeal of the movie came from just that – at least for me personally. So I was surprised that Ralph Breaks the Internet doesn’t just “break the internet”, it also breaks with that trend.
The opening scenes take place inside Litwak’s arcade and feature plenty of familiar characters (including Pac-Man and Sonic), but when Vanellope’s arcade cabinet breaks they quickly hatch a plan to find a replacement part on the internet and head for the newly installed “wi-fi” exit. What ensues isn’t a trip down videogame memory lane, but rather a clever and funny take on the dangers that modern day society faces on the online front.
Of course, Ralph and Vanellope are immediately greeted by pop-up ads and clickbait, and there’s an amusing exchange that pokes fun at the auto-fill feature that search bars have these days. Expect to see plenty of emojis, chat clouds and viral videos as well – all instantly recognizable to today’s web users. And as the online world starts to take its toll on the friendship between Ralph and Vanellope, the movie develops as an insightful satire on online behavior while remaining fun for the younger crowd.
There are still plenty of tie-ins as well, though some of them felt like “did you really have to, Disney?” stuff to me. It was fun to see a group of Disney princesses be tied into Vanellope’s storyline – with the studio not afraid to poke fun at itself. However, flaunting their Star Wars license, their Marvel license AND their theme parks felt like a bit too much.
Still, self-serving or not, Ralph Breaks the Internet is an entertaining sequel that takes Ralph from the era of classic videogames to the domain of the present day online environment – and it works as such. I doubt it’ll hold its own against the big holiday releases, but it’s a choice that has something for everyone in the family rather than catering to some and taking the rest along for the ride.