Wreck-It Ralph follow-up evaporates as soon as it's over – the perfect representation of the online universe in which it takes place
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET (Phil Johnston, Rich Moore). 112 minutes. Opens Wednesday (November 21). See listing. Rating: NNN
Hey, remember Wreck-It Ralph? That charming if slender 2012 Disney comedy about an arcade-game villain who befriended a little girl from a racing game and found out it was fun to be a good guy? Well, Ralph and Vanellope are back, and now they’re on the internet! Won’t that be fun?
Yeah. About that.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is engaging for a couple of minutes at a time, occasionally heartwarming, and evaporates as soon as you leave the theatre – so in a sense, it’s a perfect representation of the online universe in which it takes place. But it’s also utterly unnecessary, existing only as a long, lumpy brand extension.
Wreck-It Ralph was basically “what if Shrek but arcade games,” but the sweetness of the ogre-like Ralph bonding with spitfire candyland racer Vanellope sent people out of the theatre all warm and happy. And why not? The characters had a great, weird chemistry, both visually and in the voice performances of John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, and the movie gave them a happy ending that felt earned rather than conjured up in a writer’s room.
Ralph Breaks The Internet undercuts that ending by finding Vanellope growing discontented with the status quo (just like Ralph did six years ago!) and wondering if there’s more to her existence than racing the same tracks every day. And when Ralph well-meaningly wrecks her game, he and Vanellope venture onto the World Wide Web to find a rare part – only to be distracted by all the possibilities of online life, like social media and Disney princesses and an edgy new racing game that offers Vanellope the thrills she can’t find at home.
It’s hard to knock Ralph Breaks The Internet too much because it does its thing pretty well: Reilly and Silverman are still awfully charming, Gal Gadot makes the most of her role as a surprisingly enlightened speed racer in that new game, the animation is impressive – shifting tones and textures as the characters move from one virtual realm to the next – and the scene with the princesses is a lot of fun.
But there’s also that nagging lack of substance that grows more frustrating as the movie lumbers along – a sense that this movie only exists because Disney had a slot to fill on its release schedule, and it was easier to commission a sequel than come up with a new property.
That said, I felt the same way about Toy Story 3, so what do I know.