Ralph and Vanellope are still best friends years after Wreck-it Ralph. Ralph is happy with his lot, but Vanellope longs for a little more. When Ralph tries to give that to her, he, well… wrecks things! Luckily their arcade owner has just installed wifi and the thing they need to set things right is on the internet. Too bad they have no idea what that is!

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a lot of fun. But like the internet itself sometimes, it’s more diverting than meaningful. For more than an hour the film is nothing more that Ralph and Vanellope going to physical representations of websites and interacting with them in humorous ways. Again, it works! It’s great! And I can’t wait to go back and watch it again to see things I missed the first time! But compared to the richer, deeper, multifaceted plot of the original, Ralph 2 feels a lot less consequential.

Think back to all the interesting beats in Wreck-it Ralph: Ralph in therapy, the awkward party with Felix and the gang, the way the other players treat Vanellope, Ralph wrecking the car they made together, King Candy’s reveal, Ralph sacrificing himself to save Vanellope, and so much more! It was a wild, emotional, twisty, turny ride!

Here things are fairly simple and uncomplicated, more like an enjoyable drive on a straight and narrow road… until the end. A potentially interesting twist is introduced fairly late in the movie. But unfortunately the writers went a little too far with it. The characters act in ways that don’t feel natural to what we know of them. Then, in a move that Ralph himself correctly calls “unsettling”, things veer off into an extremely odd direction: taking a plot point they hadn’t made much of and blowing it way out of proportion (in a really strange way!) in what felt like an attempt to add some gravitas to the lightweight story. In a film that had been literally fun and games for the majority of the running time, this quasi-moral addition really felt forced and tacked on — definitely not earned.

While I completely stand by that criticism of the plot, I again readily admit that it is an extremely enjoyable movie! They’ve found a lot of clever ways to make the internet work as if it were a real place one could visit. And, of course, there’s the meta-humor seen in the trailers. I won’t go too deep into it to avoid spoilers. But the references to other Disney properties go a lot deeper than just the princesses.

I do have one minor quibble with this type of humor though. Will it age well? The many, many, many references to companies and memes and the like that are popular today may make this film feel embarrassingly dated in a few years.

I really enjoyed the animation in Ralph Breaks the Internet, with one notable exception. The physical manifestation of the world wide web was designed extremely well, and there are so many details to go back and find. The new racing game was perfectly done. The new characters were interesting, both in looks and personality. The one downside is the “unsettling” bit mentioned previously. Technically it may have been fine, but it was distractingly not appealing to look at — but I couldn’t look away!

Voice acting was very good across the board. The returning leads (John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman) are amazing in these roles. Gal Gadot was perfect as new racer Shank. Taraji P. Henson was fun as the trendy Yesss. Alan Tudyk again nails his latest appearance in a Disney film as the search engine KnowsMore. And Bill Hader made clickbait much more palatable as J.P. Spamley.

Ralph Breaks the Internet may not score as high as the original. But how often does a movie or video game sequel actually do better? Here the characters we love from the first film respawn in a entertaining story that will leave you laughing… until that final boss battle at least.

tl;dr Not as good as the original. Very funny. Weird ending. Worth seeing.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

Ralph Breaks the Internet
November 5, 2018
112 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston