After Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) creates a new race track in her video game Sugar Rush, Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) is trying it out for the first time. The human playing the game thinks it’s malfunctioning and accidentally breaks off the steering wheel. When arcade owner Mr. Litwak (voiced by Ed O’Neill) tries to reattach the wheel it breaks. Kids in the arcade check the internet on their phones and find a new replacement part on eBay that costs $200.00. Mr. Litwak thinks this is too much to pay and decides to unplug the game, leaving Vanellope and all the characters in the game homeless. Mr. Litwak has recently installed a wireless router in the arcade, providing wifi access to the internet. Ralph and Vanellope decide to go on the internet and get the part needed to repair Sugar Rush. Entering the World Wide Web, Ralph and Vanellope discover social media, an MMORPG called Slaughter Race and its lead character Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot), a search engine called KnowsMore (voiced by Alan Tudyk), video sharing site BuzzzVideo and its algorithm Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), pop-up ads and even the dark internet. The trip outside the arcade opens Vanellope’s eyes to the potential of something more than Sugar Rush while it strains her friendship with Ralph.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” does much of what “Wreck-It Ralph” did in being a nostalgic look at old school cabinet video games while also opening the world to the internet. There is plenty the audience will recognize of the internet in the film. Familiar names like Google, eBay, Snapchat and Twitter get ample screen time while other well-known websites, I assume they didn’t allow their names to be used, are referenced with similar sounding names and similar looking logos. The personification of pop-up ads, search engines, video-viewing likes and even viruses turns something we know about and use everyday into something we can visualize. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” brings to life the good and bad of the web while also telling a story of friendship that works for children told in a way that also entertains adults.
The voice cast of the film is terrific with much of the original film’s voices returning. John C. Reilly gives the oversized and under-brained Ralph a personality that is both grating and charming. Ralph always means well but doesn’t give as much thought to his plans as he should. His love for Vanellope leads him to make selfish mistakes that endanger her and their friendship. Reilly sells Ralph’s desperation and his insecurity in his voice acting and makes clear he still has a great deal to learn about being a good friend.
Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope is a sweet and enthusiastic character that runs counter to what we see of the real Silverman and in her standup. Vanellope loves Ralph and is thrilled to go on adventures in the other arcade video games with him, but as the movie progresses and the two venture onto the web, her eyes are opened to the bigger digital world and the possibilities it holds. Vanellope still cares for Ralph but she also wants more for herself. It’s like that old song about keeping the kids on the farm after they’ve seen Paris. Silverman’s high-pitched squeaky voice suits the look of her character perfectly. The actress’ smart aleck personality shines through and it adds to her vocal performance.
Another standout is Gal Gadot as the video game character Shank. Shank is tough and ruthless but has a streak of kindness in her. Shank appears to be designed to resemble Gadot and perhaps that combination is what makes the character so appealing. Shank takes on a mentoring role for Vanellope, giving her a sounding board to work out her confusion over her future. Godot’s warm voice, with a hint of her Israeli accent, makes these scenes with Vanellope that much more effective. If there’s a third “Ralph” film I hope Shank plays a big part in the story.
A big part of the marketing for “Ralph Breaks the Internet” was the appearance of all the Disney princesses. While it isn’t a huge part of the story it does provide a pivot point, sending Vanellope down a road of self-discovery. The gathering of princesses, old and new with the original voice actresses when available, is about as meta a moment as has ever been on film. That it happens in a Disney film is nothing short of a miracle. The scene calls out commonly used tropes in Disney films regarding female characters: They are frequently kidnapped, the focus of some sort of pursuit or persecution and most of them are orphans or lost a parent at a young age. The scene is played for laughs, and it works, but perhaps this signals a shift in how women are portrayed in Disney and Pixar films. Moana and Merida haven’t fallen into the common stereotype. While I’m probably giving the scene too much thought, it was enjoyable seeing all the princesses on screen together and not having to complete some epic quest.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is rated PG for some action and rude humor. The action usually involves a character falling from a tall building. One character is nearly crushed and there is a car chase in Slaughter Race that puts a couple of characters in peril. There are other moments when a character faces being wiped out of existence. Rude humor consists mostly of references to “butts” and one use of the word “fart.”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” manages to tell a story that is interesting to both children and the adults that brought them to the theater. There are laughs that also transcend generations. While seeing this film will be more likely to have an audience member marvel loudly at the presence of Anna from “Frozen,” it’s a small price to pay for a movie that is so colorful, so funny, so entertaining, so emotional and so good.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” gets five stars.
There’s only one new movie opening this week. Why a horror movie is opening the week after Thanksgiving is anyone’s guess, but I will probably see and review it. It does look creepy.
The Possession of Hannah Grace—
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