Movie review: ‘Ralph’ rules the ‘Internet’
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is not about the latest Ariana Grande music video going viral nor about a Russia troll farm hacking United States’ social media.
The animated sequel to “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) is more clever than that. Ralph doesn’t only “break” the internet, he wrecks it. They don’t call him “Wreck-It Ralph” for nothing.
In “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Wi-Fi service is being offered at the local video game arcade. After Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) changes the racecourse in the arcade game, “Sugar Rush,” the steering wheel breaks for the person playing the game. A replacement steering wheel can’t be immediately found. The plug is pulled on the video game.
Here’s when “Ralph Breaks the Internet” becomes hilarious. The disgruntled characters from “Sugar Rush,” including Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman), trundle into the courtyard of Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade. What follows is a panoply of plot, plot, plot far too detailed, convoluted and lengthy to go into here. However, that’s precisely why fans of arcade games, video games and social media will love this animated feature film.
The screenplay by Philip Johnson (screenwriter, “Zootopia,” 2016; screenwriter, “Wreck-It Ralph”) and Pamela Ribon (story, “Moana,” 2016), from a story he and Ribon wrote with Jim Reardon (Oscar nominee, screenwriter, “WALL-E,” 2008), Josie Trinidad (story, “Zootopia”) and Rich Moore (story, “Zootopia”; story, “Wreck-It Ralph”) with additional story material by Kelly Younger (theatrical feature story credit debut), is really smart in its depiction of the internet, as well as the interplay of game-player and game-character. Even the film’s ad on the IMDB website sets a new standard of innovative hipness.
The film’s directors Phil Johnston (theatrical feature directorial debut) and Rich Moore (Oscar recipient, director, animated feature, “Zootopia”; Oscar nominee, director, animated feature, “Wreck-It Ralph”) really strove, and did so successfully, to portray the fun and fascination of the internet, video games and role-playing.
The storyline is densely packed, too much to go into here, and augurs repeated viewings of “Ralph Breaks The Internet” to really “get” and understand all of the information, references and puns about video games, characters, gamers and the social-media obsessed culture.
To give but one example, the storyline includes Disney princesses in a confab with Vanellope, where she is coached in the wiles, ways and independence of their various characters. While this may seem, on the surface, to be one big promotion for Disney, it’s really quite fun and extraordinary in the way that the princesses (there are 13) are portrayed. Most of the princesses are voiced by the original voice talent, including Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle) and Idina Menzel (Elsa).
Distinctive voice characters are crucial to great animation and none are better in the original and sequel than John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph and Sarah Silverman as Vanellope. Voice artists must not merely play themselves or use their own voices, but create a voice character that’s them, but not them.
Reilly uses his good-guy voice to portray a likable, sincere, and overly enthusiastic character that gives the animators much to work with.
Silverman uses little-girl inflections to exaggerate her caustic voice to portray a smart, sassy and irrepressible character that again inspires the animators.
The characters’ animation is extremely well-done. Facial expressions, hand movements and body language amplify the characters’ emotions, especially with the lead characters Wreck-It-Ralph and Vanellope. There’s a pliability, an elasticity, and a depth of skin, if you will, absent from the feature films of some other animation studios. Plus, each character is drawn true to that particular character rather than in a codified animation studio style.
Among other memorable voice talents in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” are Gal Gadot (Shank,” a race-car driver in the video game, “Slaughter Race”; Taraji P. Henson (Yesss), the head algorithm determining trending videos, and Jane Lynch (Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun), the main character in the video game, “Hero’s Duty.”
As with the first film, “Wreck-It Ralph,” video game, cinema and social media fans will delight in identifying cameos by the likes of Q*Bert, Pac-Man, Frogger, Sonic the Hedgehog, Buzz Lightyear, C-3PO, and Baby Groot.
All this is backdrop to the central story, that of the friendship between Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope, which seems genuine. And that’s the best rendering of all in animation: believability.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for some action and rude humor; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy; Run time: 1 hr., 52 mins. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Credit Readers Anonymous: Midway through the “Ralph Breaks the Internet” end credits there’s an animated short film about a game where pancakes are fed to a rabbit (Don’t ask. You’ve got to see it.). Stay to the very end for a “Frozen II” teaser, which is actually “Wreck-It Ralph” (Johh C. Reilly) dancing to Rick Astley’s pop hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up” (1987), and then asking those in the movie theater why they are still there. It’s because members of Credit Readers Anonymous live for this kind of silly fun.
Unreel, Dec. 28:
“Holmes & Watson,” PG-13: Etan Cohen directs Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes, and Lauren Lapkus in the drama-comedy based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.
“Stan & Ollie,” PG: Jon S. Baird directs John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson and Stephanie Hyam in the biography comedy based on Laurel and Hardy, the cinema comedy duo, when they do a theater tour of post-World War II Great Britain.
“Vice,” R: Adam McKay directs Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell in the biography drama about Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush.
“Destroyer,” R: Karyn Kusama directs Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany and Sebastian Stan in the crime drama. A police detective on an undercover assignment re-connects with people from her past.
“On the Basis of Sex,” PG-13: Mimi Leder directs Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux and Sam Waterston in the biography drama based on the life of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes