For me, Wreck It Ralph is one of the best films of the modern Disney revival. Sure it’s not as good as Zootropolis, Big Hero 6 or Moana, but it’s a lot of fun and has a solid message behind it. There was also plenty of potential for a sequel, one which would give more depth to the supporting characters of the first film, so when a sequel was announced, I was excited. Then the trailers started, and I got nervous that this would become something like The Emoji Movie, focused more on product placement than telling a compelling story. In some ways, these worries were justified, but there are still some good elements in the film to make it an okay film.
Taking place six years after the first film, Vanellope, one of the characters in the game Sugar Rush, has become bored with the predictable nature of life there. When Ralph tries to remedy this by creating a new track, it ends up leading to the Sugar Rush cabinet being broken. Since the company that created Sugar Rush went out of business several years prior, there are very few replacements. As a result, Ralph and Vanellope decide to travel into the newly connected Internet to find the part, eventually buying it on eBay. But they need to earn money to buy the part, which leads to events involving the game Slaughter Race, which feels like the perfect environment for Vanellope, and Ralph trying to make himself a viral star to earn the money. Now, there are some good elements to the film, a few decent jokes and some good parody of internet culture. The way we see Ralph recreate viral video trends, whilst immediately dating the film, does provide a good look into modern internet culture. I also liked how, most of the real world websites are more in the background, similar to the use of the pre-existing video game characters in the first Wreck It Ralph, avoiding the feeling of product placement that The Emoji Movie had. The only real time there was an extended reference to a real site, aside from eBay, is a bit with the fansite Oh My Disney, which leads to a funny moment for me with a cameo from Jason Mantzoukas and probably the best scene in the film with a parody of the tropes of the Disney princesses.
However, the big issue I have with the film is with the character development. Sure it works in the context of the film, but the development for Vanellope is pretty standard for a female character in a Disney film (wanting a more exciting life) and the development for Ralph feels like a step back from his development in the first film. A lot of the first film involved Ralph coming to terms with his insecurities, and here he has that same arc again, but with different insecurities. I also felt that Felix and Calhoun, two of the best characters in the first film with a very interesting dynamic, were heavily underutilised here, with them getting the start of character growth, and then it all happening off screen. The same is true with an interesting element regarding the shutting off of Sugar Rush and the characters becoming refugees. Interesting stuff could have been done, but it’s overlooked to get to the internet as fast as possible.
The voice over performances are fun though. John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman still work well together, the dynamic between the characters being an interesting part of the film. Of the two, Silverman is the highlight here, giving her more time to shine and she does so well. Gal Gadot is a good bit of fun here, as is Bill Hader, and Alan Tudyk continues to be the go to actor for minor characters in Disney animated films. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch get some decent lines, even if they heavily underutilised and Taraji P Henson, whilst clearly having fun, I found a bit annoying, although that’s more due to the writing of her character than her performance. One thing I was disappointed by is that Timothy Simons and Sam Richardson are both in the film and the comic chemistry the two have is not utilised at all. It was nice to hear the people playing the Disney princesses return (with a good joke being through Kelly Macdonald really playing up her Scottishness in the film).
On a technical level, the animation is obviously excellent, having a lot of detail and life to it, using the smallest gestures in the character movement to tell us so much about the characters, and it was great to see the ways the Disney princesses who were originally in 2D were rendered in 3D to match the style of modern Disney animation. There are a few decent music moments, with a really funny Alan Menken song halfway through (and a pretty terrible Imagine Dragons song at the end). The way the film utilises speed as well is great, giving the Slaughter Race scenes a great deal of life and providing a strong contrast between Slaughter Race and Sugar Rush. I also liked the way the internet was visualised, like Instagram being an art gallery and a search engine being like a library information desk, with the way internet uses were visualised being creative, and having a similar animation feel to the 8 bit characters from the first film, especially user avatars in Slaughter Race.
Overall, Ralph Breaks The Internet is a decent sequel, but one that falls into a lot of sequel traps. In order to give Vanellope more development the film regresses Ralph and there are a lot of internet based gags which I just didn’t find funny, the jokes poking fun at Disney itself having more of a timeless feel. Sure it’s nowhere near as bad as The Emoji Movie, but there is a small bit of the cynicism of that film in here and, ultimately, this just doesn’t have the same heart as the first film.
My Rating: 3/5