Out Nov. 21 is “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” the followup to 2012’s “Wreck It Ralph.” In 2012, we met Ralph, Felix, Vanellope and other classic arcade characters, and this film finds those characters breaking out of their routines, and their games, to discover more about themselves and the world around them.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” opens on Ralph, a recovering arcade villain, and Vanellope, an ambitious candy car racer, as they explore their arcade through the night before returning to their games during the day. After Vanellope’s game breaks and threatens her existence in the arcade, Ralph and Vanellope take a huge risk to go into the Internet and find the piece needed to save her game. Inside the Internet, Ralph discovers the intimidating world full of confusion and occasional cruelty, while Vanellope finds a fantastically dangerous adventure that gives her the chance to race the way she’s always wanted. Their divergent paths and Ralph’s insecurities threaten their survival and the sake of their relationship.
The new installment takes a sharp turn from the settings of the first movie. Instead of the familiar patterns of classic arcade games and the sugary candy courses of Sugar Rush, Vanellope and Ralph find themselves navigating a high rise city scape full of the most popular websites, online games and dangerous viruses. Vanellope and Ralph set out to find the missing piece for Vanellope’s game, but quickly discover they will need to figure out how to use the Internet to make the money they need for the piece.
As Vanellope and Ralph explore the Internet, they enter worlds of different animation styles: hyperrealistic dystopia of a racing game, classic Disney animation in the world Princesses, and the digital landscape of a video streaming comments section. These jumps give the movie the same chance to play with how characters interact with different environments that made the first film so memorable. However, while the arcade games of the past spark nostalgic recognition and allow for playful projection, incorporating Internet elements pings buttons in the audience’s brains, but does not offer much of anything past that. These bows to cultural moments mean that some of the references already feel a little out of date, making it hard to see this movie as being an enduring favorite.
Though Vanellope and Ralph first go into the Internet with one goal, the movie follows a lot of threads, taking Ralph to become the equivalent of a YouTuber and Vanellope to seek a new permanent game. While the movie reaches a poignant conclusion about how relationships and people change, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” spends a lot of time on diversions that do not add to this message. This means that the audience can really feel every minute of the nearly two hour run time, one that could have been cut to a tighter, more effective movie.
Though “Ralph Breaks the Internet” does not quite match its predecessor in creativity and delivery, it does deliver a more mature message and give satisfactory dimension to the 2-D arcade protagonists.