RogerBW's Blog

Ralph Breaks the Internet 21 January 2019

2018 sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, dir. Phil Johnston and Rich Moore; IMDb / allmovie.

After the events of the first film, all seems to be well in the secret life of the arcade; but when part of Vanellope's game cabinet gets broken, the only way to replace it is to venture onto the Internet. Also marketed as Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.

As a film on its own this wouldn't be too bad. Ralph begins the film as basically selfish, gradually learns to sacrifice some of his own desires in order to help a friend in need, makes a huge error in choice of allies, learns a valuable lesson, becomes willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and is saved from having to do so, and ends up a better person. Which is not original, sure, but it works. It's fine.

Except that that was also the plot of the first film, and Ralph ended up a better person at the end of that, not like the insecure selfish guy he's become again at the start of this story. Which means that the overall plot, the thing that's driving all those beautifully-animated scenes (and the parade of jokes, many of which actually work) and turning the film from a procession of short subjects into an actual narrative, is broken; the Ralph who came out of that film shouldn't be the Ralph who goes into this one.

It's a shame, because that procession of short subjects is great. I particularly liked the Slaughter Race sequences, a racing game set in a dystopian urban hellhole, where between flamethrowering players to death the game's characters get in touch with their feelings. The jokes about various Internet sites probably won't age well, though they already feel a few years old for 2018; the total absence of Facebook or any equivalent, indeed any sort of social media beyond YouTube-like video, stops it from feeling anything like the real net.

The first film came out under the Walt Disney Animation Studios banner just as this one did, but in the six years since then Disney has got serious about its cross-marketing: why bother to pay other IP owners for jokey references to their properties, when you can borrow without charge from inside the company? In places this works very well, as with the scenes with the bevy of Disney Princesses; too often it's a parade of images for True Fans to recognise, or background notes that aren't quite thought through, as with security at a Disney fan site provided by Imperial Stormtroopers. (Uh, aren't they meant to be the bad guys?)

It works, all right; it's not terrible. But the first film was so much better than this; it had more heart in its first act than this can manage through its whole run-time. There's really nothing here to match that. The reason I recently reviewed the first film is that, after watching this, I watched that one again to remind myself of how much better it had been.

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