After becoming best friends six years ago, Ralph and Vanellope decide to leave the safe world of their arcade and explore the internet; there, they learn a lot about the meaning of true friendship.
Ralph, the villain of the Wreck-It Ralph game, changed his ways and became a hero in 2012, and has been the hero and best friend of Princess Vanellope since then. In this sequel, directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston and starring John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman (supported by copious celebrity cameos), their arcade suddenly becomes connected to the internet. When Ralph accidentally endangers Vanellope’s game, they need to explore the internet for the mythical eBay so that they can find a part. Along the way, they discover the dangers of the internet and the meaning of friendship.
More than the original film, which was a fun-filled foray into the world of gaming, from the 80s arcades to current console games, I’d compare Ralph Breaks the Internet to Inside Out. While this follows the first Ralph film in its nods to games of all types, it expands the world exponentially by adding in everything from the internet, from Twitter to Amazon and even a knock-off amalgamation of BuzzFeed and YouTube. Like Inside Out, every aspect of the internet (and the Disney properties) manifests as something clever and spot on: avatars of internet-users pervade the web-world, zooming around to different websites. Throughout the film, I kept thinking: how in the world do they come up with this stuff? It’s pitch perfect in just about every way. There’s literally something for every viewer to latch on to. Honestly, just as a monument to pop culture observation, Ralph 2 is worth the price of admission. But it’s so, so much more than that.
What’s more, the transitory nature of the pop culture commentary makes Ralph 2‘s format pliable. They travel between genres, as if they were walking through different movies–but it remains assuredly cohesive. At times, this is a zombie film; a broad action-adventure in Slaughter Race, a Grand Theft Auto analog; a traditional quest narrative; even a Broadway-style musical (with a song called “Slaughter Race” written by Alan Menken); and a full-blown reversal of Disney princess tropes (this could be a whole film in and of itself, and I’d watch it again and again).
However, as a kid’s movie whose subtle references and attenuated storytelling might go over their heads (but is totally meant for the parents, really), Ralph 2 presents a sage discussion of the meaning of friendship. Ralph and Vanellope are great friends, best friends, but the prospect of losing Vanellope to Slaughter Race makes Ralph panic, breaking her trust. From there, Ralph 2 presents a layered personification of anxiety and the consequences of an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship. It is phenomenal.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is a genre-busting, visually arresting, heartwarming film with positive, profound messages about friendship, cyber bullying, the ephemeral nature of the internet, and, of course, prolific hilarious pop culture in-jokes. What’s more, it easily compares to Inside Out for its nuanced yet on-the-nose manifestation of the internet in all its positive and negative forms. It’s a delightful, family-friendly film for the holidays that outstrips its progenitor and other sequels to beloved animated films from this year.
Tyler is a teacher, librarian and the Co-host of The Geek Card Check Podcast. He has been a Film Critic for Ready Steady Cut since 2018.