Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Screenplay: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon
Based on a Story by: Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Jim Reardon, Pamela Ribon, Josie Trinidad (with additional material by Kelly Younger)
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk
Running Time: 111 min
BBFC Certificate: PG
Walt Disney Animation Studios had a shaky start to the new millennium. Other than one or two reasonable successes, the animated features they released were not as well received by audiences or critics in the same way their 90s output was during what some dub their second ‘golden age’. To rub salt in the wounds, Pixar, Disney Animation Studios’ younger sibling, was churning out hit after hit during this time. However, the tables began to turn a little later into the decade and into the next. Pixar started to make the odd misstep with less critically successful titles such as Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, whilst Disney gradually built their good name back with The Princess and the Frog (which didn’t make loads of money, but was well received), Tangled, Wreck-it Ralph and the phenomenal mega-hit Frozen.
As the 2010s have moved on, both studios have been doing pretty well for themselves, but surprisingly it’s been Disney that has been taking risks on pretty much solely new properties during the decade, whilst Pixar has played it safe, mixing a few original ideas with a large number of sequels.
Big studios can’t resist a follow up though, so at the end of last year we saw Disney return to the digital world of Wreck-it Ralph with Ralph Breaks the Internet (surprisingly not Ralph Wrecks the Internet, which is brought up in the film itself). I liked the first film a lot, so I was keen to check out its sequel. I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of its new Blu-Ray release to review, so my thoughts on the film are below.
Ralph Breaks the Internet begins with Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) happily settled in their video arcade community. When its owner plugs his machines into the internet for the first time though, Vanellope views it as a chance to do something new and exciting after growing a little tired of her repetitive game-character existence. Ralph on the other hand, likes life the way it is and doesn’t want his friend to rock the boat, or worse, leave for greener pastures. When Ralph tries to introduce some new excitement to Vanellope’s game however, he accidentally breaks the machine, forcing it to get switched off.
The only way to fix the game is to get hold of an expensive new steering wheel and the only way to purchase it is using eBay. So Ralph is forced to take Vanellope into the internet to get it. They have no money though, so try to earn some online, initially through farming for items then later by creating viral videos. Meanwhile, Vanellope discovers her true calling. During their item farming they enter a game called ‘Slaughter Race’. It’s exactly what Vanellope is looking for – edgy, exciting and fast-paced. Ralph doesn’t like it though and does his best to steer her away from this dangerous world. One method he uses causes chaos on the internet and he begins to wonder whether he’s doing the right thing.
Ralph Breaks the Internet shares a lot of the same qualities its predecessor had, but overall doesn’t work quite as effectively. On the positive side, it’s equally as colourful and cleverly designed as Wreck-it Ralph with the world of the internet brilliantly realised in animated form. Some small details such as the way player controlled characters move when compared to digital entities provide nice touches. There are hundreds, if not thousands of little in-jokes and pop-culture references hidden in the margins too.
There are also plenty of references up front and centre, much like in the first film. There it was part of the charm and again there’s plenty of humour mined in jokes about social media and other internet uses. These are somewhat of a double edged sword though. The gags largely work and it’s fun to spot all the references, but equally there are so many of them that it can detract from the heart of the story, which is touching and actually quite mature when it takes centre stage. The use of real companies and websites felt a little more like advertising here too, whereas the references in the first film felt nostalgic.
The very ‘current’ nature of the material also puts the film in danger of becoming out of date very soon. Whereas classic video games like Sonic and Streetfighter will remain in the public consciousness for a while, references to YouTube trends and specific popular websites may well be forgotten or feel outmoded quite soon. Particularly in the fast-moving world of the internet.
The jabs at Disney itself are more effective. The marketing for the film put a lot of focus on scenes featuring most of the Disney Princesses meeting Vanellope, and rightfully so as these are sharp and funny. They also pave the way for the film’s best scene, where Vanellope breaks out into a hilariously skewed Alan Menken-composed parody of a reflective Disney song. Another standout scene is a car chase in ‘Slaughter Race’ that is every bit as good as its live-action counterparts in execution.
Overall then, it’s an enjoyable romp which endlessly pokes fun at and references the internet age and Disney’s vast empire. As such, it’s in danger of feeling outdated in a couple of years and although it has its touching moments, it doesn’t quite have the heart or drama of the first film. However, it’s still a colourful, action-packed and fun ride while it lasts.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is out on Digital Download HD/SD from 25th March and physically on Blu-ray and DVD from 1st April. Box sets containing both Wreck It Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet will also be available to purchase on 1st April in both DVD and Blu-ray formats. I watched the Blu-Ray version and the picture and sound quality was immaculate.
There’s a handful of special features included too:
– How We Broke The Internet
– Surfing for Easter Eggs
– The Music Of Ralph Breaks The Internet
– BuzzzTube Cats
– Deleted Scenes: Into The Internet, Opposites, Domestic Hell, Recruiting Grandma
– Music Video – “Zero” – Performed by Imagine Dragons
– Music Video – “In This Place” – Performed by Julia Michaels
‘How We Broke the Internet’ is a fairly decent half-hour documentary about the making of the film, covering quite a few bases. ‘Surfing for Easter Eggs’ is a lot of fun and shows a few of the more obscure in-jokes and references hidden in the background of the film. The music featurette is decent too. ‘BuzzzTube Cats’ shows a few of the fun YouTube-style cat videos created by the animators and is an enjoyable little watch. The deleted scenes are worth a look too and include interesting introductions by the directors who explain their context and why they were removed.
So it’s not a bad package. A commentary would have been nice, but you can’t have everything.