November 21, 2018
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Wreck-It Ralph finally gives the internet what it deserves in Ralph Breaks the Internet
Animated adventure featuring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Taraji P. Henson and Alan Tudyk. Written by Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon. Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston. Opens Wednesday at theatres everywhere. 124 minutes. STC
The internet had it coming.
After a quarter-century of scrambling pop culture and social discourse with zero heed to the negative consequences, our electronic overlord deserves to be kicked around by a guy like Wreck-It Ralph, the lumbering mayhem artist from 1980s video arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.
Ralph Breaks the Internet sets out to do exactly that, living up to its title and character with more vigour and an even greater anarchic sense of glee than in the first Wreck-It Ralph film. Our anti-hero is once again voiced by John C. Reilly, whose voice is so distinctive you can visualize him wearing Ralph’s ratty orange T-shirt and torn overalls.
“Sweet mother of monkey milk!” I must interject, to quote Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), the Sugar Rush racer who is also back for more. Besides kicking internet cyberbutt, this movie has a better story than before, one with more heart than you’d expect from a stack of animated pixels. Bonus game points!!!
Seems Vanellope, the glitchy princess with the wide-eyed face of an anime character, is bored of just roaring around the sweet hills and dales of her saccharine game. But when Ralph tries to help his platonic pal break out of her rut, the resulting chaos leads to a careless human player breaking the steering wheel of the Sugar Rush console at Litwak’s Family Fun Center & Arcade.
A replacement wheel for this ancient game will cost more than arcade owner Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) is willing to pay, possibly because he finally entered the 21st century by installing a wi-fi router. He unplugs Sugar Rush, casting Vanellope and the other racers into digital limbo.
Ralph and Vanellope launch their own search for a replacement device, finding one for sale on eBay, but to obtain it they’ll have to launch themselves into the internet, sort of like how the scientists of Fantastic Voyage shrink down to enter a human’s bloodstream.
Here the film, co-directed by a returning Rich Moore and upgraded Wreck-It Ralph screenwriter Phil Johnston, really zaps the zeitgeist with its barbed social commentary. The internet is depicted as a shopping mall version of Oz crossed with the cursed Pleasure Island of Pinocchio.
Mindless consumers, their heads square from constantly staring at a screen, busy themselves endlessly buying and selling stuff. They’re surrounded — product placements, ahoy! — by such real-world online distractions as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest and Fandago, along with a shameless corporate parade of Disney princesses, Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy and Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars.
For their rare moments of downtime, internet denizens turn to a 24/7 channel called BuzzzTube (YouTube must have declined the shout-out) to watch a clickbait artist named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) manipulate the masses for profit.
Frantic fun ensues as Ralph attempts to go viral to earn money to make his eBay purchase. A puzzled Vanellope, meanwhile, tries to plumb the politics of the Disney princesses: How many of them are just standing around, waiting for a “big strong man” to show up?
There’s some content that may be a little too adult for some tots: a nasty online game called Slaughter Race, featuring a cynical speedster named Shank, voiced by Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot, who leads a band of lawless thugs in a post-apocalyptic cityscape.
They bring out the competive spirit of Vanellope, much to the chagrin of Ralph, whose unruly instincts to defend his friend can only lead to trouble — and that starts with “T” and rhymes with “V” and stands for virus, the kind that really breaks the internet.
But as I said up top, the internet had it coming and this movie delivers serious silicon schadenfreude. Come for the breaking, stay for the hacking.
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