1:15pm PT by Lexy Perez
'Ralph Breaks the Internet': What the Critics Are Saying
The reviews are in for Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to Disney's 2012 animated hit Wreck-It Ralph, and critics are enjoying the colorful adventure, which reflects on the internet obsession of today, but feel as if the film sometimes lose itself in the digital world.
Six years after the original was released, John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman reprise their respective roles as Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz, who are faced with the challenge of locating a spare part to fix Vanellope's arcade game. This issue leads them to embark on an adventure that takes them inside the world of the internet.
Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter positively critiques the film, finding that the inevitable sequel defies expectations of the first film, which grossed $189.4 million. Rechtshaffen says that the film from Walt Disney Studios Animation “impressively levels up with laugh-out-loud consistency” that ultimately gives “sharply observed results,” such as having Disney princesses serving as the productions' “satirical centerpiece” and successfully highlighting the “Gen X video arcade nostalgia” and “all-consuming social-media-fueled obsession” that exists today.
Rechtsfhaffen also explains that the film — from the original’s writing-directing team of Rich Moore and Phil Johnston — never lacks "comic bandwidth." "Just when you fear the inspired scenario is going to run out of comic bandwidth, Johnston and Pamela Ribon’s screenplay proceeds to hit the production where it lives," he writes. Though returning stars Reilly and Silverman continue to be the film’s “tender heart," the critic notes that the stars get “reliably take-charge voice [assistance]” from Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Henson in the “remarkably detailed virtual world.”
Kate Erbland of IndieWire gives credit to Moore and Johnston's partnership for being the cause for "one of the year’s more ambitious features." Erbland writes that the “colorful” film is both “funny and absorbing” as it unloads "real zingers for the internet age." "[Moore and Johnston's] interpretation of a comments section will speak to anyone who works on the ‘net, chilling to the bone," she writes.
Despite being a fun film for its audience, Erbland writes that Ralph Breaks the Internet still abides by the "familiar journey from the Disney canon" but ultimately has a "switcheroo at the heart of the film," which transitions from a "whiz-bang adventure tale to an honest exploration of how friendships function." The overall storyline, he notes, is "entertaining and emotional for all ages," not just for a younger audience. “It’s classic Disney, but Moore and Johnston, along with co-writer Pamela Ribon, bring such depth of feeling that it’s easy to forgive the film’s convoluted path."
Meanwhile, Brian Truitt of USA Today says the film "[lacks] the same originality" of the 2012 movie despite matching the first entry’s "charm" and "emotions." Though the film cleverly tackles the “busy cyber-landscape” of today, Truitt writes that there’s "almost too much to watch in one viewing" and the modern storyline still projects an "old-school Disney" feel. “As up-to-date and modern as the new Ralph is, it leans old-school Disney,” he writes.
Nonetheless, Truitt says the "filmmakers know how to do it right,” noting that the movie delivers a pair of "the most entertaining sequences.” "You’ll LOL, you’ll cry-emoji, you’ll never look at a pop-up ad the same way again. And while the new Ralph falls short of the original’s brilliance, any adventure with the big oaf and his glitchy BFF is #winning."
Dana Schwartz of Entertainment Weekly notes that the sequel fares “better than the original” following other successful sequels such as Toy Story 2. "Ambitious, beautifully animated, and clever to a fault, Ralph Breaks the Internet breaks free of the pitfalls of most sequels by never forgoing heart for the sake of bigger franchise pyrotechnics," the critic writes. Schwartz explains that the film includes metajokes that abide by a theme about “insecurity and co-dependence” that could surprisingly “resonate more with parents than younger kids.” Schwartz also singles out the inclusion of the Disney princesses, which she notes don'’t “thematically resonate” but they are “somehow perfectly within the spirit of Wreck-It Ralph.”
Though Schwartz writes that the film suffers from a few “cringe-y [moments] of self-proud internet awareness,” it refrains from stepping over the line of “merely cute” and never “detracts from a fundamentally good movie.” “Cover your small kids’ eyes during a genuinely unsettling climax, and then cover your own later so no one sees how much you’re crying,” she warns.
While others may find the sequel to be a witty take on the current pop culture and social media age, Vulture’s Emily Yoshida begs to differ, finding the film "unstable" and centered on money. The critic notes that once Reilly and Silverman’s characters enter the internet in the story, "money comes into the picture" as the characters work to find a "steering wheel" to "replace the broken one" in Vanellope's Sugar Rush game. Throughout their journey, they land in debt from an "eBay auction gone awry" and fall into a “make money playing games at home” scam. The storyline, Yoshida critiques, is "flooded with savvy, incessant product placement of eBay, Amazon, Pinterest."
Yoshida also finds fault with the film’s central character, describing Ralph as a "loose metaphor for a cocktail of personality disorders." The critic also says that Ralph’s need for "external validation” ultimately tips off the audience to a “kind of inborn destructive grabbiness, the self-annihilating need for the love of others.” “If Wreck-It Ralph was a film about jobs and self-image, the addition of commerce into that equation in its sequel makes everything exponentially more manic and unstable," she writes.
Though Molly Freeman of ScreenRant considers the film to be “bigger and more heartfelt, with some fun Disney nostalgia," the critic writes that the story can get “lost in the online setting at times.” On the plus side, Freeman finds the film’s core characters to be “exceptionally grounded,” while the story's villain is only “their insecurities,” which becomes a “surprisingly impactful message” for the audience. “The movie does, at times, hit its viewers over the head with this message, but it's an earnest and important lesson to impart on the movie's young audience members (and is something viewers of all ages could do with hearing).”
On the flip side, Freeman believes the film’s internet setting can prove to be a "problem at times" with the some of the story’s transitions feeling “forced" and the characters can get “lost in certain realms of the online space.” This all leads to “disjointedness.” She also noites that the film doesn’t spend too much time “dwelling” on one realm of cyberspace, and has to “move on and bounce to the next setting within the online space in order to propel its story forward.” Despite writing that the film has fun with the storyline, Freeman believes the movie “loses some of the original’s sense of nostalgia” and instead “crams in as many recognizable characters and logos as possible." "It's a little overwhelming, like the Internet itself is to Ralph and Vanellope at the start, but while the characters find their footing eventually, viewers may be left feeling exhausted by the visual overload."
Tim Grierson of Screen Daily writes that the sequel boasts a “big heart” and has “clever comedic set pieces," but “fails to match the original’s balance of savvy pop-culture nostalgia and genuine emotional stakes." Despite the sequel being "visually vibrant," it fails to “recapture the initial novelty” of the 2012 release, which forces the filmmakers to “create a new dazzling realm for Ralph and Vanellope to explore.” Though the sequel is centered on the world of the internet, Grierson believes it results in a “strange, chaotic environment as just another dense metropolis — sort of a sunnier Blade Runner or a smarter Emoji Movie” that is also filled with product placements.
“The simple truth is that the sequel doesn’t have much insightful to say about internet culture, and its jokes about pop-up ads, vicious commenters and the vapidity of viral content lack bite.” However, Grierson praises Gadot for her "likable" character and Alan Tudyk for bringing a “drollness to his role as a snooty search engine." In conclusion, the “new film has its pleasures,” but the critic finds that “it’s not nearly as game as its predecessor.”
Similar to other review, Oliver Jones of Observer is not a fan of the film’s product placement, describing the film as a "Vitamix smoothie of gags, nostalgia, product placement, and Fruity Pebbles.” Jones also compares watching the movie in a crowded theater to “trying to Red Bull through a 9 a.m. class called ‘Marshall McLuhan in the Information Age,’ shopping the Disney Store website for sales, and texting with your best friend.” Though theatergoers, he explains, can gain some "creative” insights into “online consumer culture,” they’ll also feel as if they’ve been “mugged.”
Jones does note however that the sequel does “improve on the original in a few key ways,” such as the return of the “dynamic companionship” of Reilly and Silverman. “For Silverman, Vanellope marks one of her most satisfying screen roles," he explains, also writing that Reilly "can place yet another feather in his cap" as "this may be the prolific actor’s most accomplished year.” The film’s “moments of reflection” also provide a "welcome reprieve from all this chaos and cloying desire to seem relevant."