People these days don’t just “go” online – we “live” online. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” takes this mantra to heart by giving us what the Internet may look like if it’s an actual physical place that we could go to. As you may have thought, it’s fast, confusing, and overall crazy!
Six years ago, “Wreck-It Ralph” made us feel nostalgic by bringing our favorite childhood video games to life. Fast forward to 2018, the sequel is still making us feel things, this time by poking fun at the way we live in the present, chained to our smartphones. In “Ralph Breaks the Internet” Wreck it Ralph (John C. Reily) and Vanellope von Schweets (Sarah Silverman) have become best friends, watching sunsets and drinking root beer at Tapper’s after a whole day of playing video games. It’s my dream life if you ask me, but to Vanellope, it’s routinary. She feels that there has got to be more to life than predictable racetracks. Just when Vanellope is starting to have an existential crisis, a new device called “WIFI” gets plugged into the surge protector, opening the boundless world of the Internet.
In true, “country mouse goes to town” fashion, our unlikely duo is both overwhelmed and fascinated by the largeness of the Internet. The film does a pretty good job in interpreting the digital space as a bustling metropolis – pop-up ads are personified as persistent human billboards and the search engine KnowsMore (Alan Tudyk) is a know-it-all, autocorrecting librarian. Websites are structures that netizens can explore – from worn-out shanties of spammy websites to the colossal skyscrapers of eBay and Google.
Yep, the film is peppered with a lot of recognizable brands, and I can just imagine the hellish intellectual property deals that the filmmakers had to go through to get all these Internet powerhouses together. In the same way that 2012’s “Wreck it Ralph” is relatable because of the iconic video game characters, the appeal of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” comes from the familiar logos and online behaviors that the film makes fun of. Heck, the film’s title itself is inspired by a meme. The whole thing is a satire of how people have essentially migrated their lives online, and this is largely where the humor of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” comes from. The scenes are funny because they are true! We laugh at our own obsession with cat videos, going viral, monetization of content, even at the toxicity of the comments section. Admittedly, at some point, it starts to feel like there are too many ideas that they want to cramp into the movie but hey, I didn’t mind. The Internet is noisy and cramped after all.
The best part though is that the film not only makes fun of the Internet, it’s also confident enough to poke fun at Disney itself! Vanellope gets whisked over to “Oh My Disney”, which is like the virtual version of Disneyland. As you know from the trailers, Vanellope soon befriends the Disney Princesses, who are actually less “Disney-ish” but closer to “Shrek’s” version of what a princess is like. You can also tell that they have caught on with the times – these princesses are no damsels in distress. In fact, they’re actually tough enough to save a “big strong man”!
It’s also interesting to note that the “villain” in the film, is our own insecurity brought by spending too much time online. We don’t need a bad guy like Turbo in the first film – the insecurity that you get by comparing your lives with your cooler online friends is more than enough to break anyone.
With the exception of a few, many Disney sequels suck. But this time, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is on the right track. Spoon-feeding exposition aside, the film is hilarious enough to be enjoyed not only by kids but just about anyone with a smartphone right now.
PS. Watch out for the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Stan Lee cameo. If there’s a particular scene from the trailer that you’re looking for, be sure to stay for the post-credits too!