Movie Review: New Ideas in Ralph Breaks the Internet

Ralph Breaks the Internet
Movie Review: New Ideas in Ralph Breaks the Internet
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Animated sequels are a tough bet. While most kids are excited to see the further adventures of favourite brands, adults get lost or bored instead. Ralph Breaks the Internet, however, moves from the video arcade to the immense online world with something different to say.

This is only Disney animation’s third sequel in its almost 80 year history. Even so, the story is more like a spinoff than a sequel. Besides its stars Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), everything is entirely new. That makes it easier to follow and more inventive than rehashing.

Yes, absolutely everything is new from the 2012 original. The sets and playing world, while just as whimsical and technically fun, is all new territory. The supporting cast of known properties is new. Even the themes and moral messages have a new focus. It takes real maturity for family movies to evolve and find new ideas to explore.

Six years since the events of Wreck-It Ralph, and the games and characters of Litwack’s arcade live together peacefully. But that’s tested after an internet router is installed in the same power bar as Ralph’s game. When Vanellope’s racing game goes out of order, only a replacement part can fix the game.

Ralph and Vanellope have matured as characters – rare in animated films

Admittedly, this may not sound like an interesting plot. But what begins as a simple quest to buy a game part from an eBay auction soon expands beyond the scope of most family flicks.

The centre of the story is the fascinating and evolving relationship between Ralph and Vanellope. Years of editing and story design from a team of eight writers have given outstanding detail and growing stakes for both characters. The growing stakes, interesting goals, and a conflict is Pixar-level smart.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

This isn’t the first time family animation has explored the world of online communication. Sony’s annoying feature The Emoji Movie poisoned movie theatres last summer, corrupting children’s minds that texting was the only way to be truly valued.

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Ralph Breaks the Internet doesn’t play into that same idea. Despite its digital, online setting, the movie isn’t really about the internet at all. Ralph and Vanellope are simply citizens of the colourful online universe, now a metaphor instead of a literal world.

The movie is actually about the importance of truthful, effective communication. As humans it looks like that’s via social medias or messenger, but as characters it’s a verbal conversation. This lesson is more positive for families and easier to understand by all ages. (Frankly, most adults could benefit from remembering how we strengthen friendships by resolving conflict in compassionate ways.)

Ralph Breaks the Internet is connected and clever

I also understand this is primarily a kid’s movie and a Disney one at that. There’s no shortage of great zingers and industry-defining animation. Everything that makes Disney movies great is here, too. There’s even a surprise musical number!

What makes Ralph Breaks the Internet different is the surprisingly strong screenplay and one of the studio’s greatest character pairings. Sequels only succeed when the idea of a story is as good or better than those examined in the original.

Well, Wreck-It Ralph has broken more than the internet. He’s broken conventions of family movies. He’s broken the conventions of moral boundaries. And he’s broken through the annoying “secret villain” formula that got Disney in a rut.

It’s no literary masterpiece. But just as sequels and video games get a bad reputations for lesser stories, the expectations here are more than met.

Ralph Breaks the Internet
3 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hr 52mins. Animated Sci-Fi Comedy.
Written and Directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore.
Starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Bill Hader and Taraji P. Henson.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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