Movie Review: 'Ralph Breaks the Internet'

Vanellope thinks the internet is the perfect cure for boredom but Ralph can't wait to go home.
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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Animation Studios
Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) go online to find replacement parts for a videogame.

This sequel to Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph (2012) catapults its returning heroes, videogame characters Ralph (John C Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) into the internet, in search of a replacement part for a videogame. This is a fast-paced, imaginative and suspenseful movie with a message of friendship and working together to overcome obstacles. 

The first movie was about Ralph saving "Sugar Rush," a candy-themed cart racing arcade game, from being unplugged at Litwak's Family Fun Center & Arcade. In the current movie, we rejoin Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope, who are best friends, and work as arcade game characters. They work a long day inside the arcade game, but at night, the arcade is closed and they’re off the clock until the next day. Vanellope admits to being bored with the predictability of her videogame. It's the same game every day, and it's no longer challenging.

To cheer up Vanellope, Ralph creates a secret bonus track in the Sugar Rush game. She enjoys the track but overrides the player controls to race on it, causing the player's steering wheel to get stuck. Meanwhile, the child actually playing the videogame thinks it's glitching and accidentally pulls the steering wheel off the console. Eventually, the steering wheel completely breaks as arcade owner Mr. Litwak tries to reattach it. When Mr. Litwak learns that a replacement part would cost more than the game makes in a year, he has no choice but to unplug Sugar Rush and sell it for parts. Now that the videogame is unplugged, Vanellope and her friends are out of work.

In an attempt to reactivate Sugar Rush, Ralph ventures into the internet using the arcade's Wi-Fi router. Ralph and Vanellope try to get a replacement steering wheel on eBay. They find the exact steering wheel that they need, but must pay for it within 24 hours. The problem is that they don't have any money. To raise the funds, they steal an expensive fancy car from an online game called "Slaughter Race." By stealing the car, Ralph and Vanellope will earn bonus points and the money they need to pay for the replacement steering wheel. (If this plot makes sense to you, then you're probably a videogame player)

It turns out that Slaughter Race is a "Grand Theft Auto" style online game. Vanellope steals a car from a slick lady racecar driver named Shank (Gal Gadot). A high-speed chase ensues as Shank goes after Vanellope to get her car back. Eventually, Vanellope and Ralph end up at a video sharing site called BuzzTube. They meet with BuzzTube's "Chief Algorithm," a funky purple-haired woman named "Yesss" (voiced by Taraji P. Henson.) Ralph decides to raise money by creating BuzzTube videos about popular trends. Of course, Ralph's goal is to earn enough money to buy the steering wheel and return Vanellope to Sugar Rush. Little do they realize that their adventure will set off a mysterious virus which threatens to wipe out the internet.

Appropriateness for children

I watched "Ralph Breaks the Internet" with a little girl in first grade, her mom and grandmother. The girl liked the movie, especially a scene where Vanellope meets the Disney movie princesses. Vanellope introduces them to casual clothing, which is so much more comfortable than fancy princess gowns. It's fun to see Elsa from Frozen in comfy leggings and a hoodie that says "Let it Go."

The movie may not appeal to kids who don't play videogames and are unfamiliar with the internet. Yes, the more media-savvy you are, the more you will like this movie. The plot and logic of the movie is very similar to videogames, such as stealing a car in order to earn money and bonus points. Of course, it doesn’t translate into real life situations, where there are usually consequences for your actions. (In real life, stealing inevitably results in getting caught and ending up in jail.) This aspect may be unsettling for some parents and their children.

"Ralph Breaks the Internet" is appropriate for kids in elementary school and up, but is best suited for teenagers because of the videogame violence (including guns, explosions, car crashes, and life-or-death situations.) In one scene, Ralph visits a creepy thug with a tumor on his neck. The tumor actually has a face, and balks like a baby, which may frighten some children. (The scene is eerily reminiscent of “Total Recall” where Arnold Schwarzenegger interacts with a similar character) There's also an out-of-control computer virus that turns into a giant monster as it preys upon people's insecurities. The virus focuses on Ralph's insecurities and multiplies them into a legion of miniature Ralph's, which swarm like cockroaches, and climb a building to metamorphose into a King-Kong sized gorilla.

Overall, "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is a clever exploration of the internet and our media-obsessed culture. There's a message of friendship, and that caring about someone means giving them the freedom to make their own choices. The characters also work together to overcome obstacles and find the replacement wheel that they're looking for. Without giving too much away, there's an surprise ending which wraps up the story on a happy note.