The follow-up to 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph sees our heroes leave their home comforts of the arcade for the shiny new World Wide Web.
Back in 2012, Walt Disney Animation Studios released Wreck-It Ralph; a shameless lump of video-game fan service that had a lot more heart and charm than anyone could have anticipated. The bad-guy who wasn’t a bad guy resonated with audiences and critics, so it was no surprise to see that Ralph and his friend Vanellope would return for another spin.
This time around, the story is allowed to be told on a much larger scale and our heroes find themselves hitching a ride toward the Information Superhighway, aka the Internet.
The first thing that warrants mentioning about Ralph Breaks the Internet is that this film is absolutely stunning visually. It’s easy to take for granted the advancements made in animation and design, but the film’s visual interpretation of the Internet is gorgeous. Here, it’s portrayed as a bustling megapolis; all clean and beautiful and full of possibility at the surface, with the more sinister areas of the web just waiting around the corner. The film effortlessly captures the paradox that is the Internet: a living entity that is entirely abstract, which is no mean feat for any film – let alone one from the House of Mouse.
Of course, when putting any representation of the Internet on display, it’s inevitable that the bigger entities come into play. Ralph Breaks the Internet not only acknowledges their existence, but fully embraces the big boys. Sites like eBay, Google and Amazon are immortalised in giant virtual skyscrapers, with happy faces everywhere and no heed paid to any real-life practices for any such businesses.
Plenty has already been made of Disney’s own victory lap within Ralph 2, and they certainly take the opportunity to show off their empire with both hands. Everything remotely related to Disney is shown off here, from Star Wars and Marvel to the studio’s own Princesses. In the film and filmmakers’ defence, the inclusion of the latter does make for some good jokes and scenes at Disney’s own expense; each Disney Princess of note gets a moment to break free of their reputation as a damsel in distress.
Eventually, the festival of capitalist extravagance is allowed to quieten down a bit. The whole thing does feel a bit overcrowded, but when the film’s focus is drawn to its main characters, the film becomes surprisingly touching. John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman’s vocal efforts give a great deal of depth and personality to Ralph and Vanellope respectively, and they help to create a strong emotional centre for the film, around which it can throw all of the corporate madness.
I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised by Ralph Breaks the Internet. Unlike the viral videos it depicts through the film’s second act, the earnestness of its characters and the emotional climax have real staying power.
Ralph 2 is easily the best animated sequel this year, which given the calibre of the competition probably isn’t saying much.