Released: 26 December
Seen: 16th December (Advanced Screening)
Six Years ago, Disney unleashed Wreck-It Ralph onto screens and it was a huge hit. Everyone was floored by how bold it was, a raucous combination of video game characters that we hadn’t seen together before, telling a tale of a video game villain and a video game glitch who we would come to love. It was a monster hit for the company who had only just bought Star Wars that same year. It’s weird to remember that but when the first Wreck-It Ralph came out it was days after Disney bought out Star Wars, cementing their ownership of everyone’s childhoods. In the last year Disney did something similar by buying Fox Entertainment and it raised two big questions
- Is anyone going to put a check on this obvious corporate monopoly that’s effectively trying to buy all entertainment as we know it?
- …so, when are Storm Troopers going to turn up in a Disney movie and have fights with a Disney princess?
I might not be able to answer the first one, but we now have an answer to the second one.
Ralph Breaks The Internet starts with an innocent mistake turning into a catastrophe when Ralph’s attempt to make the game more exciting for Vanellope ends up causing the wheel on her game console to break off. Since that means that there’s a good chance her game will remain unplugged her and Ralph decide to go onto the internet and find eBay where they might be able to buy a new wheel, but on the way Vanellope might end up finding something she want’s even more and that might cause a major problem with her friendship.
So about a year ago, there was a film about digital characters going onto the internet and it was derided (rightly) for being a cheap cash in that didn’t understand how to use the concept it was gifted. Well, turns out that the idea isn’t bad but it just required someone to have enough talent to make it work. Ralph Wrecks The Internet plays with internet culture expertly, using it to enhance the story instead of just to earn cool points. The first time we see the vast world of the internet it’s huge, never-ending and actually makes clever use of its subject matter. Jokes about google or twitter actually work when they make them part of a world that feels real. It felt like they were there because they’re a major part of the internet, not because they’re recognisable brand names. When we bring up eBay, it’s actually important to the plot of the film. When we visit the dark web, it’s actually important to the plot. When we look at the goddamn comments of a video, it’s actually important to the plot. Nothing feels like it’s just there to be gratuitous, even the Disney Princesses which could’ve felt like blind fanservice but actually helps push along Vanellope’s plotline, while also engaging in some fun meta-commentary on the Disney Princesses brand.
It is really nice seeing how they managed to make everything feel like it’s part of the same universe while making the designs different enough that you can follow who is from what. Visitors to the internet all look similar enough, the denizens of Slaughter Race (a nod to games like Grand Theft Auto and Carmageddon) look like they belong in a high definition racing game, but Vanellope doesn’t look wrong when she’s brought into the game. The visual choices really help make this movie work so much better, it gives it life and really makes it a joy to watch. It also really helps the filmmakers hide some good jokes, from some of the items on sale at eBay to an acknowledgement in the credits that Disney knows about that adult Sherlock fan fiction… they did their research, is what I’m saying.
The way Disney finally decided to actually play with the toys they bought was delightful. Seeing C3-PO coming in to talk to the Disney Princesses was a lot of fun, as were several quick cameos by Marvel and Pixar characters along the way. The scenes with all the Disney princesses calling out the repeated tropes that they have become known for was hilarious and delightful. Hearing them all try and push Vanellope into understanding what she wants (In song, of course) was a genuinely hilarious use of these iconic characters and allowed them to really show off… although, giving Cinderella ears is still a very weird choice, but we can live with that.
It’s nice that this isn’t one of those stories with a surprise villain, there isn’t even really an antagonist, it’s a story about friendships and how sometimes something can get between them. It explores ideas of jealousy and insecurity, about how the internet can bring people together but also tear them apart. The main conflict comes from our leads because a story like this doesn’t need a really big villain, it’s the relationship between the leads that creates all the dramatic tension we need. A story about friendship that really isn’t afraid to lean into it and explore what that can mean, how a friendship can turn toxic, how friends can become family. Disney knows how to take a concept and explore every facet of it and they did that here while throwing in the image of Wreck-It Ralph’s head on a screaming goat, a two for one deal if ever I heard one.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is a fantastically entertaining follow up to the original, taking the ideas from the first movie and ramping it up as much as they could. With some great jokes and set pieces, an understanding of internet subcultures and a good amount of self-reflection, it’s a movie that parent’s and kids will enjoy a lot… and if you sit around after the credits, I promise you that the end credit’s scene is one of the most brilliant end credit’s scenes that I’ve ever seen. I actually was applauding by the end of this movie, it’s hard to think of a single thing that this movie did wrong
What did you think of Ralph Breaks The Internet? Let me know yours in the comments below