Wreck-It Ralph is back with another fun romp through the world of technology in “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” which features an unlikely friendship and a journey of self-improvement. Original Co-Director Rich Moore returns with writer-turned-Co-Director Phil Johnston, who also co-wrote the critically-acclaimed “Zootopia.” It’s safe to say they’ve recreated the magic of the original.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is, first and foremost, a lot of fun. The film is bursting with creativity, fully taking advantage of its digital setting. Its predecessor was a loving homage to arcade gaming, and the sequel takes this to the next level. A sketchy website is represented as a shoddy, back-alley warehouse. The personified head algorithm of fictional video-sharing website BuzzzTube changes outfits as quickly and as frequently as the internet changes obsessions. Users represented by bobble-headed avatars scamper along at different paces according to connection speeds. The mile-a-minute world-building is on-par with last year’s Academy Award winner, “Coco.”
Just as inspired as the setting, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is brimming with heart and good humor. Ralph’s (John C. Reilly) well-intentioned innocence and Vanellope’s (Sarah Silverman) rambunctious spirit make them hilarious foils for one another. More brother-and-sister than anything else, the true bond between the characters is apparent and convincing due to enjoyable performances from Reilly and Silverman. Since Ralph’s last outing, the star-studded cast has added Taraji P. Henson, Gal Gadot and Bill Hader, whose character I particularly enjoyed, even if he’s essentially the same as the one he played in “Inside Out.”
If “Wreck-It Ralph” was about self-acceptance, then its sequel is about self-improvement. In the last film, the titular video game bad guy learns to be at peace with who he is. This time, he takes the next step to become a better version of himself. The film offers a poignant message for the Internet age. In the face of cyberbullying and the constant presence of social media, children — and everyone else, for that matter — struggle with self-worth. In one scene, Ralph breaks one of the rules of the Internet — he reads the comments on one of his videos. This deeply affects him, but by the end of the film he has matured to a point where the negative responses no longer trouble him.
It continues to break the mold as Vanellope meets with the Disney princesses. Most little girls watching the film have more in common with Vanellope than they do with any of the royal heroines she encounters, and so an exchange occurs. Vanellope teaches them to mellow out, and they help her in turn to be more vocal about her goals.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a film in the same vein as its predecessor. There’s less of a quest to beat a big bad villain and more of a journey to become the a better version of yourself for the people you love. Wreck-It Ralph is supposed to be a villain in his world, but he continues to capture our hearts and be more than who he’s expected to be. While we can’t really go out and take part in fantastical adventures across digital interfaces, we can always learn a thing or two from Ralph.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 26 print edition. Email Fareid El Gafy at [email protected]