Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
Back in 2012, we jumped into the hyper-kinetic color-blast world of Sugar Rush, the video game within the movie Wreck-It Ralph—a setting so over-the-top that it made a Japanese game show seem like a staid PBS documentary. I suspect that’s part of what kept the film from being an unqualified success; it finished the year outside the top ten at the box office, behind Brave, The Lorax, and even Madagascar 3.
But Disney liked the returns enough to order up a sequel anyway, and thus we find ourselves headed back into the colorful mayhem, with Ralph Breaks the Internet. Though it ends up feeling a little more muted by comparison (how could it not?), it still feels as though the filmmakers were just trying to cram as much candy-coated crap as they could into two hours, in the hopes that something would stick.
John C. Reilly reprises his role as the titular video game character, and Sarah Silverman’s Vanellope von Schweetz gets a beefier role, landing as Ralph’s best friend and little buddy throughout. When the film opens, they’re still living inside their respective games at Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade, but one day the steering wheel on the Sugar Rush console breaks and good ol’ Mr. Litwak can’t afford a replacement, so Ralph and Vanellope take things into their own hands and head to the internet to find a new one.
Imagined as a colossal metropolis, the internet is a sprawling city of high-rises and storefronts. Google, Amazon, and (natch) OhMyDisney all feature prominently, and the filmmakers take every advantage to inject meta-humor throughout the proceedings. Ralph and Vanellope’s first stop is at eBay, where they try to win the auction for the steering wheel, but their collective eBay ignorance leads them to win with a $27,001 bid… on the $200 item.
Not having any cash (since they’re, ya know, just a collection of pixels), they decide to click on a spam ad, which, long-story-short, leads them to the world of Slaughter Race, a Grand Theft Auto-type game featuring Shank (Gal Gadot). Vanellope fits into the world splendidly, able to strut her stuff in a fast-and-furious car chase. At the same time, Ralph is trying to earn some money himself by becoming a viral video star on BuzzzTube.
And that’s only the first half of the movie.
From there we get into a subplot involving Ralph’s jealousy at Vanellope’s success, a visit to the dark web, and a 20-story-tall computer virus monster, as well as what is undoubtedly the best part of the movie—a hilarious little (too little) side story with all the Disney Princesses. In a fun throwback, all of the original voice actresses (except for Snow White and Aurora) return to voice their characters in a pair of scenes that alone makes Ralph worth the price of admission.
The kids in the audience will have as much fun at Ralph as being set free in a candy store (with the same result), and if you can somehow get your brood to stay in their seats for more than thirty seconds at a time, consider it a victory. For adults, though, Ralph ultimately winds up feeling as over-stuffed as the Thanksgiving turkey, and the predictable third-act climax does everything possible to erase all the clever humor and catered-to-parents fun that came before it.
Memo to the Disney folks: If you need an inspired and potential-laden idea for your next film, you might be onto something with the whole Princesses bit. As for this whole Wreck-It Ralph thing, though, it may be time to just say ‘game over’.