FILM REVIEW: How "Ralph Breaks the Internet" Wrecked My Expectations
Waking up begins with saying ‘am’ and ‘now’.
A woken thing stares at the ceiling or the floor. Perhaps it gazes between the hazy pot plants and dead bees of bright distinction that line the windowsill. The light stings. The woken thing rises from the dead. It grinds coffee. It curses itself. It remembers that, this morning – this inevitable but impossible morning – the woken thing has to attend a screening.
‘I am here to review this film,’ it assures everyone and itself as it enters the cinema. It fails to find its name on the guestlist. It shovels down free pikelets. It feels embarrassed all over.
‘I am here now.’ Every moment of its life somehow led to this. Every long day and every hard night led into this morning. It could be anywhere. It could be doing anything. But it is here, watching Ralph Breaks the Internet in a packed cinema.
Neither the rising sun outside nor the blazing lights within could burn as bright as the laughter of the packed parent/child audience. Nothing could have prepared it - me - for this movie. This moment. This transformative experience. This unexpected but ravenously-received salvation in the form of, essentially, a glorified reboot of The Emoji Movie.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is the sequel to 2012’s Wreck it Ralph. It follows the once villainized but now admired Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his best friend, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who exist within an arcade world populated by video game characters. This time, Ralph and Vanellope venture into cyberspace with a simple task. But, along the way, they discover that the internet is a world of infinite possibilities and begin to question if they are truly happy in their 8-bit lives.
How Ralph Breaks the Internet broke down my negative expectations was through the arenas it entered and the statements it made. Under the shimmering comedic surface, the film is a wholehearted statement on insecurities. The most prominent amongst which is, ironically, a lack of security. Ralph explores the concepts of blissful ignorance; of reaching a summit in life and staying put instead of venturing towards the next one. For most, when a loved one journeys from a place of comfort towards a greater good, we wish them the best but find it difficult not to self-evaluate; to feel envious or irrelevant. Here, as Ralph basks in his comfortable lifestyle, Vanellope explores the infinite possibilities of cyberspace, searching for greater meaning.
I’m not exaggerating about the insecurity thing - the major villain in this film is a virus that scans a character for insecurities and produces a copy based off of them. It’s a problem that the characters cannot simply solve with hammering fists: facing up to insecurities becomes the backbone of the film’s latter half. It’s a section which carries not only extreme emotional weight but fantastic character development as well as oddly mature and existential comeuppance.
This film has a large heart but also a tongue in its cheek. The humour (though occasionally cringey when referencing internet meme culture) is largely on the nose. The Disney Princesses make for a fantastic entourage and are far more than just a cameo. In fact, Vanellope getting her own Disney princess ‘stare at a body of water and sing about something important’ solo is not unworthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
The animation here is unrivalled, melding multiple graphic styles and portraying individual characters in differing frame rates aligned with their era and platform of origin. It’s true that Disney can’t help but advertise during a highly unnecessary ‘run through Disneyland Online™’ sequence, but they do find time to call themselves out for the horrendous treatment and characterization of their classic princesses.
Reilly and Silverman are at their best with their fantastic voice performances, buoyed by fantastic sound design. Accompanying the leads’ charms are a slew of fun cameos and secondary players (including Australia’s own Hamish Blake) who add extra life and heart to the film.
I walked into this sequel without having seen the original; with the worst expectations. I was experiencing Emoji Movie flashbacks and an intense desire to get out of the cinema immediately. I was a broken man. A wreck. But Ralph Breaks the Internet brought me around. It’s far better than it needed to be. The children in the audience would have been happy enough with all its humour and energy. But Ralph is clever and heartfelt. It isn’t afraid to be tongue in cheek, but it knows when to speak clearly; to be honest and heartfelt when addressing important subjects like insecurity and weakness that affect children and adults alike. I’ll say it again: I was not a fan of Wreck-it Ralph when I barely woke up and sleep-walked into that cinema that morning. But I am now.
4 out of 5 pixels