It’s Thursday, so that must mean it’s movie time. I had high hopes to give you an ‘animation sequel week’, as Lovely Wife and I were watching The Lego Movie 2, but unfortunately we’re still only halfway through that, so it’ll have to wait until next week.
Instead, just one movie: Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018), a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, in which the two game characters leave the arcade and venture out onto the Internet. See you in a mo…
Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)
Available on iTunes and Amazon Prime
Video game bad guy Ralph and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz must risk it all by travelling to the World Wide Web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush.
In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the Internet to help navigate their way, including an entrepreneur named Yesss, who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site BuzzzTube.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is not what you’d call a smooth ride. It swerves between marvellous satire and corporate authorised tie-in™ with unpredictable regularity. One moment it’s sending up anything and everything home company Disney owns – including Marvel movies, Pixar movies and Disney movies. The next moment (or maybe a few moments later), it’s taking on the conventions of modern day console games.
Then as soon as it’s within spitting distance of the likes of Google or eBay, it becomes a tame little mouse, hoping to leverage marketing synergies to achieve a unique Unicorn. Or something equally processed by committees of lawyers and marketers.
The plot is pretty simple. Sugar Rush’s steering wheel has fallen off and the newly WiFi-enabled arcade reveals that eBay has a replacement for sale. If Ralph and Vanellope can get the wheel, they’ll save Sugar Rush (and thus Vanellope) from being thrown in a landfill somewhere. However, to do that, they’ll also have to learn about money – and then somehow get some money.
Not a total wreck
The first half-hour is a bit of drag, peppered with the occasional great gag such as when Raph and Vanellope go off and play Tron together. The constant deference to the likes of eBay is tedious, so no hint of any real sharpness ever creeps through.
It’s only once Ralph and Vanellope work their way over to multi-player online game ‘Slaughter Race’ and meet up with the Gal Gadot-voiced ‘Shank’ that the movie goes beyond mildly amusing metaphors and actually has something to say about players, game expectations, excesses and conventions in console games and the like, occasionally getting close to Jumanji‘s insights.
Then we return to the Internet and the realm of easy targets, such as YouTube videos – although, of course, they’re not YouTube, but ‘Buzztube’ because Google. ‘Don’t read the comments’ isn’t exactly late night TV satire and a film for kids about monetisation of user-generated content feels a little distasteful, but it is what it is.
The film does find itself on a firmer footing when it’s allowed to start sending up Star Wars, the Marvel movies and more. Those scenes feel a bit gratuitous at times, with no real requirement for them in the plot, but it does allow for all manner of cameos, including pretty much every living voice artist for all the Disney Princesses, who provide a great couple of ensemble scenes.
Which is cool, no matter how you cut it, and while it’s not quite Enchanted, we do get some decent jokes about the conventions of the princess ‘genre’.
All the same, the movie doesn’t exactly head for anything to hard-hitting after that, as it becomes yet another take on friendship, acceptance of one’s dreams, acceptance of other’s dreams and the usual kiddie fare. Even Gadot’s hardcore character is simply another piece of a standard female empowerment narrative, rather than anything subversive. It’s a kid’s movie, for sure, but predictable fodder all the same.
That said, the ending is actually surprisingly downbeat and you do have to wonder why the writers went with something so atypical. Like I said, it really is all over the place.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is reasonably amusing, but clunky and clumsy. It updates the movie to deal with modern gaming developments, but doesn’t really have much to say – or at least much to say that it was allowed to say – and what it does say, is spread all over the place. Some things hit home, most things don’t. It’s probably worth watching for some isolated gems, but this isn’t exactly Pixar at its best.