Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ralph Breaks the Internet - Review

The 2012 original, Wreck-It Ralph, sort of caught audiences and critics by surprise. After years and years of lackluster efforts, Disney had only recently gotten back on track, returning to good storytelling as well as good animation. Even then, however, nothing had truly struck a chord with audiences everywhere, until the heartfelt movie about video game characters and friendship came along to really put Disney Animation Studios back in the game. 

Video game bad guy Ralph (John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope's video game, "Sugar Rush." In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet -- the netizens -- to help navigate their way, including an entrepreneur named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site BuzzzTube.

The first film was not lacking in the heartwarming department, enough to warrant its comparisons to the Pixar formula that so many have come to love. However, while the sequel doesn’t quite reach those same heights, it more than makes up for it with heaps of cleverness and enhancing the core relationship at the center of it all. Plugging into the world of the internet draws the protagonists into foreign territory and the antics that ensue is impossible to not love in every possible way.

And this new-fangled world of online insanity is quite spectacular. It has all the usual trappings of what the internet is known for, the Twitter, Google, and YouTube logos are all seen at various points, but never tries to rely on references or in jokes, simply allowing ingenious bits to play out in the backdrop as the heroes traverse the dangers of the world wide web. The only true instance of corporate implementation happens to be their own, with more Disney properties than you can count in one sequence, and yet the use of the princesses that we all know is among one of the better scenes in the film, and one of the best moments of the year.

Reilly and Silverman are back as the lovable duo of Ralph and Vanellope, building on their relationship from the first film and developing a friendship that feels real, or as real as it can it animated form. There are a few new additions to the voice cast, but none standout quite as much as the on the nose casting of Gal Gadot as Shank, a member of a criminal car gang in the Slaughter Race game, or Taraij P. Henson as Yesss, the sassy and cunning algorithm that makes Ralph an internet star.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is the rare animated sequel that surpasses the original, even if it just barely clears it. The same heartfelt themes are present, even if they’re not as clear or moving as before, and the smart background references and jokes are immense and entertaining in their own right. The duo of Ralph and Vanellope is hard to not love, and the film knows it, utilizing the two’s friendship to pull audiences everywhere into this wacky world of the internet, as long as Ralph doesn’t break it that is.

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