Continuing Disney’s recent trend of releasing theatrical sequels to animated feature films, Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz return for round two in Ralph Breaks the Internet, picking up six years after the events of 2012’s Wreck-it Ralph. Ralph Breaks the Internet trades the classic video game cameos of the first film for a foray into the world wide web, populated by its own menagerie of easily-recognizable characters from their own franchises. While the main conflict lacks substance and might seem awfully avoidable to older viewers, the film is buoyed by a clever script which bounces from reference to reference, culminating in a mostly enjoyable 112-minute romp through Disney’s vibrant reimagining of the internet.
Six years after successfully restoring Vanellope’s status as princess of her own game Sugar Rush, Wreck-It Ralph is completely satisfied with his lifestyle as an arcade bad guy, who by day entertains children in Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade and by night hangs out with his best friend Vanellope. Unlike Ralph, Vanellope finds their lifestyle has become predictable, and wishes for more variety in her game. Hearing this, Ralph goes forth and creates a brand new track for her in the middle of a race the next day. When Vanellope excitedly takes the path, however, she ends up fighting for control with the player at the arcade, a tug-of-war which causes the machine’s steering wheel to break. The duo must now leave the arcade they’ve known for their entire lives, and traverse the great unknown of the internet in search of a new steering wheel to save Sugar Rush from being unplugged forever.
Any viewers hoping to see more classic video game characters this time around will be disappointed, as aside from a few familiar cameos from the first film, Ralph Breaks the Internet avoids retreading old ground in favor of introducing a whole host of web-themed characters. These include a gritty online racing game boss named Shank who is essentially CGI Gal Gadot, an inexplicably fashionable blue algorithm named Yesss that tracks trending videos second by second, and Knowsmore, a cute little search engine with an aggressive autofill that is disappointed that no one ever thanks him for the information he provides. In contrast, side characters from the original film like Fix-it Felix and Sergeant Calhoun play only bit roles, and have no relevance to the overarching plot as a whole.
Fortunately, these new characters are generally likable, if one-dimensional. In typical Disney fashion, the people who audiences would expect to be mean are actually pretty nice. The difference this time is there is no counterpart pretend-nice villain who turns on the heroes midway through the movie. Instead, the main conflict comes from Ralph himself, as he wrestles with the fact that Vanellope is being drawn away from him in pursuit of the new experiences that the arcade can no longer offer her. This realization makes him so insecure that he turns to the dark web in search of a virus that will render the internet so devoid of fun that Vanellope will have no other option but return to the arcade with him. This plan feels childish – which it is, so watching the ensuing events unfold from Ralph’s decision are entertaining, but also slightly cringe-inducing.
In the end, the biggest thing going for the film is not its shaky plot, but the sheer number of high-profile cameos contained within the cozy runtime of 112 minutes. Disney’s marketing power is on full display here, as viewers will spot familiar online locales ranging from Google to Amazon to Pinterest, and of course, Disney itself. All the official Disney Princesses get an extended sequence as web versions of their characters, and play a short but key role at the climax of the film. Seeing these familiar faces, among others peppered throughout the film, culminate in a colorful, funny, and whimsical journey that more or less makes up for the forced conflict ball caused by Ralph and Vanellope’s rushed decisions.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is ultimately a fun and lighthearted romp through the most recognizable fixtures of the web featuring some video game characters from the first movie. While older viewers and fans of the first film may not be entirely satisfied with the storytelling choices of this film, Ralph’s adventures remain a visual treat to watch, and the self-referential humor is always enjoyable to follow. Meanwhile, the door remains open if Disney ever plans on making a third movie which combines the video game aspects of the original film with the internet elements of the sequel. If it ever happens, it will be a movie to look forward to.