Ralph Breaks The Internet Review
I think it's time to start accepting that Disney ultimately runs the planet now. Claiming three of the top five spots for the highest grossing movies of last year, their monopolistic grip on visual entertainment may allow for some interesting crossovers, but ultimately I find it rather terrifying. Usually, though, I can put it out of my mind to an extent when watching a Disney movie, mostly for the sake of the creators involved who do seem to sincerely care about their work beyond monetary gain. Sadly, in the case of Ralph Breaks The Internet, the second in the Wreck-It Ralph series, I was completely unable to overlook this, as the film insisted on constantly reminding me of its questionable intentions.
Set around six years after the events of the first film, Ralph Breaks The Internet focusses on the friendship between two video game characters, villain-with-a-heart-of-gold Ralph (John C. Reilly) and the plucky go-cart racer Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). This time, the scope of their adventure is exponentially increased, as they are forced to voyage into the web to save the latter's arcade machine from destruction after an enthusiastic child breaks the controller. But once they enter the mysterious metropolis of the online world, they find it increasingly difficult to leave, and their status as best friends is put to the ultimate test. Through this story, directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnstone manage to explore male insecurity rather profoundly, with Ralph's arc primarily concerning how dependent on Vanellope he is, and Vanellope's story revolving around a need for independence.
This fairly interesting premise is supported well by some spectacular animation and some great concepts in depicting the intangible web. By treating the web as a utopian city, subconcepts for each website and internet paradigm basically write themselves: eBay is a literal auction, clickbait is people walking around the streets with signs, and Twitter is a tree with birds repeating one another. As charming as these were to watch when brought to life through seamless, vibrant 3D animation, they did feel increasingly gimmicky, and frankly reminded me at points of the much-maligned Emoji Movie. Shiny, synthetic slickness will only get a film so far, and for me, Ralph Breaks The Internet falls apart when you scratch the surface.
Hey, have you ever heard of Amazon? Google, perhaps? Then this, according to Disney, is the film for you! Disturbingly (to me at least), these monoliths of consumerism are treated as fun, harmless staples of our current pop culture, comparable to Star Wars or Marvel - both now Disney properties. It's clear that on a basic level, Disney wants you to recognise these companies and feel reassured, to trust this virtual playground as much as Ralph and Vanellope grow to. In the case of children, obviously the movie's target audience, there is a sense that they want to introduce them to these conglomerates in a comforting, appealing way, glossing over the injustice at the heart of their ethos. In this contained, curated version of the internet the company is presenting to us, real-world situations are of no consequence, so why bother acknowledging them?
Alas, this obscene promotion of uncaring corporations does serve to undercut the otherwise decent writing and well thought out moral messages no doubt put forward by the creative individuals who worked on this project. As previously mentioned, the effort to highlight masculine insecurities with such a huge platform and audience is commendable, and the wonderful John C. Reilly brings poignant humanity to a character that could have just been a punchline. But this isn't quite enough - Ralph here is emblematic of a type of insecurity endorsed by companies like Amazon in order to sell goods, and the Disney Princesses 'feminist' moment is so pandering it feels like it exists solely for the trailer. How can you take a moment where Ralph discovers mean comments on a false YouTube seriously when the seemingly sympathetic platform itself does nothing to prevent this in the real world?
But of course, this is a kids film, so we shouldn't take any criticism too seriously or expect any complexity or sincerity, right? This is a depressingly common viewpoint that allows seemingly 'woke' but ultimately superficial films like Ralph Breaks The Internet to thrive. We, as viewers, shouldn't settle for this. Children, more than any other group, deserve films that are honest and multifaceted, and that above all care about them as more than potential customers. This is a movie made by a talented cast and crew with some brilliant themes and visuals, that has been brought down substantially by Disney's endless, ruthless pursuit of money and control.
For those who managed to gain some straightforward enjoyment of this film, first of all, congratulations, and second of all, the Blu-ray edition has a respectable, if not particularly impressive number of extras. Usual standbys like deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes short are available for those interested, alongside a look at some of the easter eggs in the film. There has been an outcry online from people unhappy that a 3D edition has not been made available, but for those willing to settle for Blu-ray, this version is absolutely fine.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
Dir: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore | Cast: Gal Gadot, John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Taraji P. Henson | Writers: Jim Reardon (story by), Josie Trinidad (story by), Pamela Ribon (screenplay by), Pamela Ribon (story by), Phil Johnston (screenplay by), Phil Johnston (story by), Rich Moore (story by)