On the surface, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a cheerful movie about allowing your loved ones to pursue their dreams even if it inconveniences your expectations. On deeper analysis, it is a wicked and scathing social examination of how hate, capitalism and insipid forms of communication have led to an insubstantial existence brought on in part by the flimsy connections of social media.
In the first film, “Wreck It Ralph,” arcade characters Ralph and the Sugar Rush kart-racing-game Princess Vanellope, are bonded as besties. The film was a nostalgic jaunt through all of the popular video games of the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was innovative and cute. "Ralph Breaks the Internet" is downright diabolical in its deconstruction of the glitz, dangers, and social destruction of the internet. Helmed again by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, as Ralph and Vanellope, both actors are veterans of controversial social satire and deliver their lines with the perfect blend of sarcastic naiveté.
The plot is wonderfully convoluted but unfolds easily and logically. Ralph and Vanellope are enjoying the sweet life living between their day jobs in arcade games and the power strip’s central station in an outdated family arcade. They have a nice routine but Vanellope wants something more. Eager to comply, Ralph builds a new race track in her game.
During a race, Vanellope wrangles the control steering wheel from the human player of the game and inadvertently breaks the wheel from the machine. The human finds the part on eBay but – at a cost of $200 – the owner decides to scrap the machine, leaving the characters homeless. Later that day, the owner plugs in a new machine: Wi-Fi. Ralph and Vanellope travel through the Wi-Fi to the internet to find the part. The dilemma: Once Vanellope goes to the internet, she doesn't want to go back to the doldrums of the arcade.
The internet scenes are where the imagination of the film unfolds. Vanellope and Ralph remind us of the simple times of the ‘80s and ‘90s before shopping was the touch of a screen, money was digital and friendships were based on genuine in-person interactions and not likes, hearts, trolls or followers.
The duo has no idea how to use money and think that eBay bid amounts are points – the higher the better. When they need to produce physical money, they run into a click-bait spammer who asks, “Do ya wanna make money on the internet?”
They innocently follow the spammer and are led to a statuesque gamer, Shank (Gal Gadot), who is the lead character in a seedy death race game. Shank sends them to Yesss (Taraji P. Henson), who is the lead algorithm for BuzzTube. Both Shank and Yesss control their respective programs and both have a soft spot to manipulate the internet to help Ralph and Vanellope. Unfortunately, their help on the internet exposes both Ralph and Vanellope to the insecurities of global scrutiny and the insecurities of their friendship.
Everything is right about this film. The voice talent punches with comedic timing. The cinematography and graphics are vividly overwhelming with nearly every inch of the screen covered in vibrant, colorful architecture and props. The character design is superb as video game characters from different eras and genres mingle seamlessly on the screen while maintaining either their dated or contemporary pixel construction. The visual onslaught is guaranteed to hold even the most wiggly child viewers hostage as their tiny minds try to comprehend the array of information.
A scene starring the entire cadre of Disney© Princesses – voiced by most of the original actresses – forces us to face the sexism and image fetishisms that target women’s bodies, intelligence and the exhausted "white knight syndrome.” The film then pokes fun at Vanellope’s royalty. She is a princess and no princess is worth her salt without a song. Vanellope belts out her scratchy-throated tune from a squalid, dark alley complete with dancing thugs and hooligans.
Luckily, this satire – that pushes the envelope on the capitalistic nonsense of our social media connections – is disguised as a Disney cartoon so your kids won't have their minds mushed by the red pill of reality and parents can chuckle or blush freely without explaining grown-folk realities.
Social Satire Connoisseurs: 5 out 5 Miners
Family Audiences: 4 out of 5 Miners
Lovers of Animated Films: 5 out of 5 Miners