Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Directed by: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore | 112 minutes | animation, adventure | Dutch voice cast: Frank Lammers, Georgina Verbaan, Michiel Veenstra, Anouk Maas, Sharon Doorzon, Brainpower | Original voice cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Sean Giambrone, Flula Borg, Timothy Simons, Ali Wong, Hamish Blake GloZell Green, Rebecca Wisocky, Sam Richardson, Jaboukie Young-White, Maurice LaMarche, Melissa Villaseñor

Try to imagine that you have been frozen in time for thirty years, and then you end up in the world in 2018, in which life takes place largely online. Then you don’t know what you’re going through. That’s exactly how it must feel for Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his girlfriend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), the arcade game figures the world got to meet in ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ (2012). The only world they know is their own, often quite outdated video game. Where they were allowed to dive into each other’s world in the first film, Walt Disney Animation Studios pulls them into the tangle of the worldwide web for the sequel ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ (2018). According to producer Clark Spencer, the film is about change. “Two good friends are about to discover that the world won’t always be the same. The internet is the perfect setting for this, because changes happen there all the time. No second is the same.” The internet also offers plenty of opportunities for subtle or not-so-subtle winks at reality and popular culture. A world opened up not only for Ralph and Vanellope, but also for the makers. For the sequel, largely the same cast and crew could be summoned; director Rich Moore is assisted by screenwriter Phil Johnston and ‘Vaiana’ (2016) writer Pamela Ribon joined the writing team.

The story takes place six years after the events of the first film. Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz have since become best friends and hang out every night at Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade, where Vanellope complains that she finds her playing “Sugar Rush” so boring and predictable. Ralph tries to help her by creating a secret bonus track for her, but things get out of hand, causing the video game’s steering wheel to break. Finding a new one for such an old game is not easy, especially since the company that developed the game no longer exists. If mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) then threatens to pull the plug on ‘Sugar Rush’, Ralph feels compelled to do something about the situation. Via the newly installed WiFi router in the arcade, he decides to travel to the internet with Vanellope to buy a new steering wheel via eBay. They make the winning bid, but can’t possibly cough up the $27,001 themselves, certainly not within 24 hours. Fortunately, the internet offers plenty of opportunities to make money, they learn from pop-up advertiser Spamley (Bill Hader). They take on a lucrative job: stealing one of Shank’s precious cars from the online game ‘Slaughter Race’ (a parody of ‘Grand Theft Auto). Meanwhile, Ralph is also trying to earn money by making videos for BuzzzTube (a contraction of BuzzFeed and YouTube), in the hopes that they will go viral.

The internet as a world full of possibilities, that’s how Vanellope sees it. Ralph prefers to return to the old familiar, but is eager to help his girlfriend secure her future. It is that unconditional friendship that is the basis of ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’. As they travel the World Wide Web, they encounter a barrage of pop-up ads, are distracted by clickbait, and even venture into (an admittedly purged version of) the Dark Web. Because there are also dangers on the internet, is a lesson that Disney certainly wants to teach its young viewers. Trolls, viruses, malware and negative reactions on social media are issues that Ralph and Vanellope also have to deal with. Fortunately, most of their adventures are dynamic and very funny. The countless references to brands, websites, internet phenomena and of course Disney/Pixar’s own oeuvre are also very entertaining for adults. The highlight is the scene where Vanellope comes to the fan site (note, this one actually exists!) where she meets a dozen Disney princesses. For this scene, all but one of the surviving original voice actresses were roped in to revive their characters (only Mary Costa, who voiced Princess Aurora in 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty,” felt she was too young at 88). old to portray a teenager). The princesses are all authentic and comment wonderfully on the criticism that has been given to them (online). Disney certainly dares to make fun of itself, and that is commendable.

Unfortunately, the sharpness of the humor in that one scene doesn’t extend throughout the film, but ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ is more than entertaining thanks to its colorful dynamics, contemporary approach and hilarious references. In a sense, however, the strength of this film can also become its weakness: in view of the volatile nature of the Internet, the question is how urgent and topical ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ will still be in a few years’ time. Although it is very likely that by then we can expect a new creation from the inventive stable of Disney / Pixar. As for ‘Ralph’; Moore and Johnston have already let slip that a spin-off, which focuses on the Disney princesses, is certainly a possibility, “Depending on the reactions of the public and whether there is a good story to tell”. We warmly welcome the idea!

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