Welcome to the land of video games. Once played significantly in arcades throughout the land, the strange creations drew kids from all over, with various backgrounds, to compete against one another in a test of skill and manual dexterity. And in this world of video games, one wrecker of a digital program existed. The Fix-It Felix video game had the ultimate wrecker: Wreck-It -Ralph. Disney animators believed taking these video game characters and transporting them to the big screen would be an overnight smash. And they were right. Ralph became an instant hit. So much so, the creators instantly got to work on the second of their creations: Wreck-It Ralph 2 – Ralph Breaks The Internet.
I have to admit a certain fondness for both the characters of Ralph and of those low-resolution games of the past. They represent my childhood. In fact, I have to admit I was one of those kids hanging out with my friends at those video game places they had in malls and elsewhere. Once upon a time, they were prevalent. Even Disneyland used to have a huge multi-level arcade area friends of mine would congregate in. Now, these video game machines are relegated to certain types of places like Dave and Busters or John’s Incredible Pizza. They are all but eliminated from the landscape.
So when Disney decided to bring them back a few years ago, part of me was just geeked by all of the video game characters I saw. Aside from Wreck-It Ralph, they had PacMan, Street Fighter, Tapper, Q*bert and a whole host of classic games I remembered. I know it partially represents my youth. But I am excited when I get to share with my daughter a bit of my past in some way. This was perfect. And the movie was a classic.
Hence, I was very excited about the release of the second of the Ralph movies with Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet. Just the sheer idea of him getting out there and seeing what could possibly go wrong on the net made me giggle on the inside. Old world graphics versus new high-tech graphics at ridiculous speeds. So without further ado, here is my review of Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet.
Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks The Internet Review
When we last left Ralph (John C. Reilly), our intrepid explorer, he had just saved the Candy Crush racing game from extinction, by destroying these crazy Alien Bug Creatures with diet soda mountain and a lot of Mentos. (You should drop a Mentos in a Diet Soda for real and see the soda shoot into the air.) Whereas the bug thing might have been his fault, his smash it first attitude did end up revealing an evil presence inside the game and exterminating it, reinstating the rightful ruler of Candy Crush back to her proper place: Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). Of course, she just so happens to be Ralph’s new best friend.
We drop in on the pair as they are going through their routines in life. And while Ralph welcomes the stability now that he has an actual friend, Vanellope is looking for something just a bit different. She hints to Ralph that she needs a change one night after working the video game grind at Tappers. Ralph does what any red-blooded, or not so red-blooded, best friend would do with hands like hammers and the ability to make new roads by running in a direction. He builds Vanellope and entirely new race track.
She loves it, only in so doing, she overrides her player’s controller and ultimately causes the girl to pull the wheel off the game and making it break down. They would need to get a new part. And the new part is far too expensive to be able to afford for the video game store. They will have to shut it down, abandoning all of those video game people to the world of the surge protector.
But Ralph comes to the rescue again. In order to help Vanellope retain her identity and get her game back, and the sanity of his friends Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and paramour Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph vows to take Vanellope to the Web to find that part. While there they meet some interesting characters like J.P. Spamley (Bill Hader), Yesss (Taraji P. Henson) Shank (Gal Gadot), KnowsMore (Alan Tudyk who ironically played the baddie King Candy in the original), and a bevy of princesses (mostly voiced by their original voice actors which is impressive, to say the least).
Of course, things don’t come as easily as they had hoped to get the part. Not knowing what E-Bay was and how it worked contributes mightily to this. They are stuck trying to find different jobs to try to earn enough money to pay for the part. Initially, this lands them in Shank’s neck of the woods, where Vanellope sees a whole other side of racing she had never done before.
They then make it to Yesss, who can provide them with a different way to make money, which Shank has suggested, viral videos. There Ralph comes to the rescue one more time, doing whatever he can, no matter how painful or how embarrassing, to get enough money to get that part. Vanellope runs off to try to do some side work to help increase the money Ralph earns from making these wild videos. And Ralph ends up running head-on into what it means to have people hate you as he reads the comments from his videos, setting him up for his one failure in the piece.
Vanellope, meanwhile, runs into the Disney princesses who tell her to focus on herself (and maybe a pool of water), to determine what her dream is. Through some unique intervention, she finds that all she really wants to do is join Shank’s crew and drive in this new racing arena. (whether it’s because she’s bored of the other place, or she really loves the independence being a crew member gives her as she is not controlled by another human player we aren’t really told.) We just know it’s her dream and so she should get it.
I really don’t want to spoil everything that happens from here on out, but I kind of need to get into some of it because, while the animation is funny, the story is touching and engaging, and the characters are as real and as lifelike as any live-action film, I do have one thing I felt took away from some of the beauty of the story. And it’s the central conflict between Vanellope and Ralph which ate away at me. Yes, it’s a story, and Disney has a right to tell it their way. This doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t problems with how they told it. It begins with the far too frequent occurrence in film and TV of what I call the “dumb male” character which needs to grow up or won’t grow up. I think they go too far here with Ralph.
How do they take this too far? Well, let’s look at Ralph’s character in general. He has never had a friend in his whole life before Vanellope. His co-workers have hated him, wanting to throw him off a roof every time Felix wins a medal. They dislike him so much, they don’t even invite him to work parties where everyone else attends. And finally, he meets a friend. He doesn’t want things to change in this world with his new friend. He would be the absolute LAST person who would want anything to change. And yet they then pick on Ralph and subtly attack him for his insecurity. I’m not saying he’s not insecure. He is insecure. But he’s insecure with some giant reasons to be so.
So when Ralph’s big failure comes about because of this insecurity, they lay it on heavy handed. Yesss may tell Vanellope that Ralph is a multifaceted character who can do good things at times. But it feels like an empty compliment. Because Ralph is the one who needs to grow up because he is the “dumb male.” This dumb, insecure cartoon character will be the cause of the destruction of the internet. Yes, Ralph does grow. And I’m grateful for that. The “if you love someone, set them free” quote does come to mind in the end with this. And Ralph learns this valuable lesson.
This leads me to my second subtle, yet intricately related problem: Vanellope learns nothing. Let’s set aside for a moment that she learns what her heart’s desire is, which is to be part of Shank’s crew. She doesn’t seem to appreciate any of the things which Ralph does for her. Her own insecurity causes her to hide things from Ralph, which makes Ralph even more insecure than his previous life and a ton of negative comments about his videos already made him. And when Ralph tells her knew about her plans to run off into a dangerous situation, and not be upfront enough to tell him how she really felt, she has the temerity to blame Ralph for spying even though his spying was accidental and in large part created by the fact she mutes Ralph so she couldn’t hear him but he could hear her.
It’s the nagging questions at the end which make the aggravation over “dumb male” feel more than just a slight complaint. Because when all is said and done, I couldn’t tell you that Vanellope wouldn’t go and hide something from Ralph in the future. In fact, she might even want to hide it more because of how badly he acted this time as if that would be an excuse. In addition, she will not see how her own insecurity helped contribute to the problem in the first place. It’s like any situation with a couple, one person is rarely the only person at fault for the turmoil. I can say what Ralph learned. But I cannot say that Vanellope learned anything.
She gets what she wants in the end, but will it really matter? What will happen when this place gets dull? Will infinite variation mean she will be happier there than in Sugar Rush? Or will she tire of that as well? And now that Shank added code so she’s officially part of the program and won’t get erased if something happens, will she notice how ultimately she’s got less control because the programmers have set her parameters in a more significant way? Instead of being the Slave from 8 to 8. She’s a slave 24 hours a day on the net? And does she feel a responsibility at all to those she left behind? Maybe her years where they were unkind stopped her from feeling responsible. But shouldn’t she feel some? After all, she is their princess.
Maybe I’m looking at it all wrong, and I should really just view Vanellope as impetuous teenager, while Ralph is the quasi-father figure who needs to learn to let go. I tried to relate to the movie on this level. But so much about Ralph is still a kid, I just couldn’t give in to that feeling entirely. While they are not paramours, they aren’t father-daughter either. They are best buds. And I’m ok with that. Ultimately, I feel it makes Ralph a better character than Vanellope.
The way they made the film makes Vanellope a static character, which makes me sad. Because there was so much to mine there with both of their characters learning to handle their insecurities. Papering over Vanellope’s insecurities about her glitch by making it all ok because she’s following her heart’s desire is not enough. She should learn to take responsibility just like Ralph. But she doesn’t. And here we are.
***End of Spoilers***
From here on out, you are on your own. I don’t want to get any deeper into the weeds unless I was writing an academic paper. And this should certainly not be one of those. It’s just a review of what I think of the movie Wreck-It Ralph 2 – Ralph Breaks the Internet. Despite the flaws I found in the movie, it’s still highly entertaining fare. And when it comes to the end, as a dad I still had a hard time not wanting to tear up. (Maybe someday I’ll do a treatise on in the future: biggest tear jerkers for me as a fun blog post.) . Both affecting, and fun, Wreck-It Ralph 2 is certainly worth the price of admission and worth a watch. Just maybe have a talk with your kids about accepting responsibility for your actions is very important after the movie.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Wrapping Things Up
I am a movie fanatic. In addition, I love all things Disney and Disney animation. And I was a huge fan of the first movie Wreck-It Ralph. So I really wanted to give this movie a higher rating than I did. But sometimes, as you are sitting down to review something, it just doesn’t live up to what you know it could. Sometimes those deficiencies eat away at you until you know you cannot give it what you thought you would at the beginning. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad picture. On the contrary, it would still Rank as fresh on any Rotten Tomatoes review. Just doesn’t soar the way a great film truly should.
But it works, and for that, I say thank you to Disney once again for an enjoyable afternoon. And I’m looking forward to both Mary Poppins and Dumbo in the near future. It’s an exciting time to be a Disney fan no doubt. I’ll be reviewing another film again soon I’m sure. With the AMC A-list pass (which I will discuss in a future post), I am geeked to be able to watch so many films, which means I have more content to bring to you. Always a plus. So until next review, see ya at the popcorn stand.
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I know many of you have probably already seen this movie. What did you think of the movie? Who was your favorite character? What kind of relationship do you think Ralph and Vanellope have? And what did you think of all of those princesses? And if you didn’t see the film, what is a movie you are looking forward to watching in the near future?
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If you liked this post, you need to read some more of my film reviews. They are must-read material. Especially my top five films of all time which are both informative and self-deprecating. How self-deprecating you ask? Just go click here and find out. And then make sure and click the like star at the end of this post. Then share with your friends. And be sure to follow us here at the Guide to get the best in all movie review, parenting, Knott’s Berry Farm, Southern California, food holiday, fake news, fitness and lifestyle posts to whet your whistle. You won’t want to miss a single one. As always, thank you for stopping by.
Until next time, this is me signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life