Ralph Breaks the Internet has a lot of fun set pieces, but when it comes to forming a meaningful and cohesive whole it falls flat.
Directors: Phil Johnston and Rich Moore
Summary: Six years after the events of Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.
Wreck-It Ralph was a movie that came out of nowhere. It was fun to see all of these old video game characters running around, but it also had heart. That heart came from the great characters that we got to meet and watch grow, and not from the video game cameos. Those were fun but that's not what made the movie work. Unfortunately, the filmmakers of Ralph Breaks the Internet forgot that. This movie focuses on jokes about current internet culture instead of on the characters.
For example, Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch) have maybe five minutes of total screen time together. Their absence from most of the film does end up producing one of the best jokes in the entire movie, but losing both of those characters isn't worth it. Instead, we see Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) run around the internet to try and find a part to fix her game. We get some swipes at eBay, gold farming, and viral videos along the way.
The problem is that internet culture moves at lightning speed, and animated movies take a long time to develop. That means that Ralph Breaks the Internet hits theaters feeling a little dated. In ten years, it's going to look like something kids wouldn't dream of watching unless it was to make fun of what their parents used to think was funny. It doesn't make the movie bad, but it does make it very "in the moment" in both good ways and bad.
But for a movie that has "Breaks the Internet" in the title, it doesn't linger on any of the bad. The idea of "don't read the comments" is about as close as the movie comes to tackling just how toxic the internet can be. The concept of the "dark web" is briefly explored, but not in any tangible way. This is a Disney movie so they were never going to really dig into the dark side of the internet. However, unlike the previous movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet deals with people on a much more direct level. It feels like Disney is trying to, well, Disney-fy the internet, and it can come across as incredibly shallow.
This is not to say there aren't some great set pieces. Vanellope running around what is basically a giant Disney fan site is pretty entertaining. The Princess section is hilarious and there are some great cameos in that part of the movie. The scenes in Slaughter Race, the Twisted Metal style MMO-racer, are a lot of fun, and Gal Gadot is clearly having fun as the heroine of the game.
It's a movie with an odd structure, and that structure calls attention to the parts of the movie that don't work. The set pieces are good. But the things in between, the little character beats and the connective tissue between those set pieces, are not so good. The movie doesn't quite know how to close in a satisfying way, and then doesn't bother trying by the end.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is far from a bad movie, but it is the second Disney misfire of the month. It's entertaining enough, but falls very flat compared to the first film. It's a movie you'll enjoy now, but you won't be able to share this one with the next generation. Maybe longevity doesn't matter as much anymore, but Disney movies used to be timeless. Perhaps that is no longer possible.