Ralph Breaks the Internet

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 11/26/18 06:53:21

"An online experience nearly as good as that in the arcade."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

"Ralph Breaks the Internet" may not be quite as delightful as "Wreck-It Ralph", but that's probably because its clever bits are more likely to poke fun at the present rather than dip into nostalgia, with the Disney jokes maybe a little more self-serving than self-deprecating. That was easy goodwill for the first movie, and the second has to try a little harder. Fortunately, it manages what it needs to just as well, getting a lot of laughs even as it makes a bit of an unexpected turn.

It's been six years since the events of the first movies, but not much has changed for the video game characters at Litwak's Arcade since then, which suits Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) fine, though best friend Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) is looking for a bit more than racing on the same three courses every day. When Ralph's attempt to help results in real-world damage that might get Vanellope's game sold for scrap, they figure the only thing to do is head to the Internet via a newly-attached WiFi router to get the part on eBay - but paying for it means either swiping a car from Slaughter Race boss Shank (voice of Gal Gadot) or convincing streaming-site algorithm Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson) to make them viral.

Conflict is what drives a story, or at least that's what they teach you in school, and some of Disney's most memorable characters are its villains, so it's pretty impressive that they keep the movie going for a long time based on people working toward the same goal and genuinely liking each other. Pretty much every crazy situation Ralph and Vanellope get into is the result of good intentions not being backed up by experience, and even the characters who could potentially be bad guys with betrayal in mind tend to wind up doing what they say they will. It's easy to make friendship seem boring or undramatic, but that's something this movie happily avoids.

It can let that sort of thing slide because the filmmakers have jokes. The film is just as pop-culturally savvy as the first movie without them repeating themselves, giving personalities to everything from pop-up ads to fansites, finding what is ridiculous about the Internet but also what is delightful about exploring, with Ralph and Vanellope wonderfully blank slates as they react. Everything is presented in nifty, eye-popping fashion - extra effort to see it in 3D is not wasted - and the action is staged as well as any live-action movie, especially a centerpiece car chase that's thrilling but also great for establishing a connection between Vanellope and Shank.

It adds a few fun new voices to the cast, especially Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Henson, who give Shank and Yesss plenty of attitude that combines with the fluid, strong body language contributed by the animators for plenty of confidence. There's plenty of fun having three decades of Disney princesses reprise their voices as well. Still, the film smartly spends most of its time with John C. Reilly's Ralph and Sarah Silverman's Vanellope. He makes Ralph just the right sort of lovable, well-meaning doofus to keep the audience expecting disaster but mostly cheering for him, even it's cheering for him to do better. Silverman, meanwhile, is downright great as an eternal kid who nevertheless wants to expand her horizons. She makes Vanellope precocious but nervous, and exactly the right sort of outraged when needed.

That's needed when Ralph does do something selfish enough to set up homestretch trouble, and it's something the filmmakers have a little trouble with. There's something basic underneath it which festers in a lot of types of relationship, something which folks will recognize but maybe fret over how quickly things get reversed. Ralph has got to be forgiven practically before how bad he's been kicks in, and maybe kids (and, yeah, boys specifically) can get the wrong message from that. Still, it sets up a fun finale that benefits from the same sort of misdirection as Frozen did, and it hurts not at all that it hits the same notes about growing up as Toy Story 3 (it's a good trick, making these sequels about growing up and moving on, as the original audience will mature over the time an animated film takes to be produced).

It's a smart tack to take and makes for a surprisingly emotional ending, though not so final that there aren't room for a couple more jokes afterward. It's not the pure delight of the first, but it's still funny and clever, and the audience reaction makes me wonder just where they'll go should Disney make a third trip to this arcade.

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