Ralph Breaks the Internet pairs online trends with a maturing friendship

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By Nuramin Hakimi, First Year, LLB Law

The first Walt Disney Animation Studios sequel to be released in theatres, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a heartwarming and hilarious follow-up to the original that stumbles slightly with its exploration of the Internet.

Ralph Breaks the Internet takes place six years after the original, with Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) finding themselves oweing a ludicrous amount of digital money after an online auction gone horribly wrong.

Youtube / Movieclips Trailers

Where the first Wreck-It Ralph (2012) used licensed video game characters to construct its nostalgic arcade-era video game setting, Ralph Breaks the Internet uses recognisable online companies to instill a sense of familiarity in its newfound setting. Though big online brands such as Google, Snapchat, and Amazon act as little more than floating names in the background - perhaps for the better - some creative instances of online branding do exist, such as eBay being depicted as an actual live auction and Instagram taking the form of a real-life art gallery.

However, a problem with the film being set online is that it expected to provide social commentary - an expectation non-existent for its predecessor. With a brief illustration of how toxic people can become on the Internet, the film does attempt to make some statement about the online world around us, but it still feels flat.

Instead, negative elements of the Internet such as viruses and pop-up ads act merely as brief glimpses into the underworld of the web, ultimately serving as devices to further the tension between the two lead characters. For a kids film depicting the most present aspect in the lives of kids today, it’s hard not to feel like more could have been said had things taken a slightly different direction.

Another issue with the new setting is that, by escaping the arcade, the film sacrifices its warm, nostalgic buzz for contemporary appeal based on pop culture and current Internet trends. It leaves you wondering how well the film will age in the next few years. Even its portrayal of the Internet as a realm flooded with cat videos feels pretty dated. Fans who enjoyed Disney’s take on video game nostalgia in the first Wreck-It Ralph may find themselves slightly disappointed with the change of environment.

However, Ralph Breaks the Internet shines when dealing with Disney’s own property. In ‘Oh My Disney’, Vanellope’s encounter with a group of past Disney princesses is absolutely delightful. The interactions between Vanellope and the rest of the Disney princesses are both hilarious and relevant, with Disney knocking several princess tropes down a peg.

The rest of the ‘Oh My Disney’ scenes are also a treat, with a series of cameos from Star Wars, Marvel and other Disney animated characters. All in all, the sequence does well not to overstay its welcome, feeling like a brief celebration of everything Disney, rather than an overlong flurry of ‘remember this guy’ cameos that some sceptics feared after seeing the trailers.

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IMDb / Ralph Breaks the Internet / Disney

What made the first Wreck-It Ralph great was the heart and chemistry between Ralph and Vanellope. Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston clearly understand this in Ralph Breaks the Internet, as the core of the film’s story is the maturing friendship between the two leads and the circumstances which affect it that forces both characters to adapt.

With this, the film poses important questions in its depiction of friendship regarding issues such as space and the boundaries we have to respect in interpersonal relationships. It’s this willingness to tackle relatively mature themes in a kids film that carries Ralph Breaks the Internet against its middling setting.

Although the combination doesn’t entirely work on its own, the standout sequences of the film along with its heartwarming narrative help Ralph Breaks the Internet feel like a necessary sequel to the original.

Featured Image: IMDb / Ralph Breaks the Internet / Disney


How many of your favourite internet trends popped up in Ralph Breaks the Internet?

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