We are in the age of sequels. But really, it’s understandable; sequels and franchises are built on the bedrock of a once original idea that made boatloads of money. It makes sense to milk that cash cow until it runs dry. But as people rush out to theaters and pay money to fuel the franchise machine, it’s hard not to get a little jaded. Are there any good original ideas out there anymore, or are we going to be watching the same movies told in different ways over again forever? As if in response, this Thanksgiving, Disney released a movie that seemed to get the best of both worlds. It was indeed a sequel, but it explored new ideas while building upon the old. And that movie wasn’t Marvel related, Star Wars or even Pixar. No, this movie was “Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
When “Wreck-It Ralph” was released in 2012, it was a pretty clever idea. Disney took a page out of Pixar’s book and made non-human things seem very human indeed. Though this time, instead of being monsters or toys or talking animals, it was video game characters.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” imagines that the lives of Ralph (John C. Reilly), his best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and all their companions have been somewhat the same since we last saw them. There’s not a lot of time spent in the six years that have elapsed between films. The film starts right out by setting up the conflict, and Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush, needs a new steering wheel. Unfortunately, the game is so old that no one manufactures them anymore, and the only wheel available is a pricey eBay auction. In order to save Vanellope and the rest of the characters from her game, she and Ralph journey into the newly hooked-up internet in search of eBay in order to buy the wheel. Things don’t go as smoothly as planned.
Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about this film is the gorgeously imagined and animated world of the internet. The previews give a taste, but the full thing is a dream to watch. Everything has been intricately designed so that it’s easy to imagine watching it at least three times and not catching everything. From the way that Twitter is a building of literal birds, to personification of pop-ups and viruses and endless nods to internet trends and memes, it’s as much a culture time capsule as anything else.
For Disney nerds of any sort, the highlight might be Vanellope’s trip to OhMyDisney.com, where there are blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances from too many characters to count. It all culminates in the highly-anticipated Disney Princess meet-up which is short, sweet and absolutely a joy to watch. Gal Gadot and Tarij P. Henson also lend their voices to a couple of interesting new characters, but you’ll have to watch the movie for more info on that.
Other than the animation, part of the reason this movie feels like such a breath of fresh air is that it is (in a rather meta way) about letting go of some of the old so that the new can flourish. While the initial conflict may be about the steering wheel, things quickly become more about Vanellope and Ralph’s friendship and what it truly means to stay friends when you may want different things. Though a bit heavy-handed in representation, the ending message is rather sweet and, in some ways, will likely have more of an impact on adults than children. It ties in nicely with the idea of old arcade video game characters embracing the internet.
At the end of the day, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” may not exactly be a wholly original idea, but it is a cleverly crafted and well executed film that adds to the original material without seeming to do the first movie all over again. Like most Disney films, the target audience is children, but thanks to the film’s unabashed exploration and homage to the internet, there is just as much for older and more tech savvy audiences. Overall, it is certainly worth the watch if you are looking for a well done, feel-good movie with excellent animation to boot.