When it was released in 2012, Wreck-It Ralph was a revelation. It seemed that Walt Disney Animation Studios had entered into a new renaissance of quality animated films (with the exception being Frozen). Wreck-It Ralph was fun, clever, had a heaping amount of logic in its world-building, and contained some very important themes about life and purpose.
Its sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, has failed at almost every aspect of what made the first film great.
Funny and clever only sporadically, Ralph Breaks the Internet sucks the heartful soul and sound internal logic from the original film while galavanting in a bright, shiny world of non-stop pop-culture gags and one-note jokes. Bringing in modern cynicism and politics didn’t help this film, either. This is very sad for me to report, as I am a big fan of Disney animation and loved the first film.
But despite all of its flaws and leaps in logic, Ralph Breaks the Internet did touch on another deep point about the nature of life and humanity. I just wish it was in a better movie.
The Good: Gag Me
With every Disney animated feature, the animation itself gets better and better. Ralph Breaks the Internet was no exception. While the quality upgrades are getting more and more subtle, they are still worth noting. Things like the animation of hair are always getting more refined and realistic.
The design of the film’s internet was definitely something to be praised. I just wish it was its own movie and not an extension of the Wreck-It Ralph universe. The gags were very clever and funny for this current generation of internet users. I could imagine the story team in a room for days just spouting off gag after gag, and writing them feverishly into the script somewhere. Showing anthropomorphic versions of some of the internet’s most well-known aspects was very funny in places. The pop-up ads were hilarious because they capture their random annoying nature.
The film’s interpretation of the internet really showed off the inanity of internet culture, with its constant need for likes, clicks, and views – and might actually give today’s users (especially the younger set) a little pause about web’s overuse. Yesss (delightfully voiced by Taraji P. Henson) was the perfect avatar for the constantly-changing tastes of the internet, as she changed her look every time the audience saw her in the film.
The Bad: This Does Not Compute
The main problem with Ralph Breaks the Internet was that it followed what I call the Cars 2 sequel syndrome. It’s a very apt comparison – the characters were taken out of their small, cozy world (which relegates most of the characters we met in the previous film to the sidelines), where they were brought into a much larger place filled with more characters and gags about their world-at-large. In the process, the film (and larger world) lost its quaint charm, which is what made the first film so poignant and appealing.
Ralph and Vanellope’s journey to the internet made the story so big and more complicated than it needed to be. The epic journey didn’t need to be near as epic; Litwak’s Arcade was epic enough, in my opinion. The tight internal logic of the world of Litwak’s was thrown to the wind in this film. There’s no more clever logic – only eye-rolling convenience and contrivance.
The significance and stakes of the entire first film were made irrelevant by the story choices in Ralph Breaks the Internet. The whole point of the first film was that Ralph needed to be in the game to make sure the rest of the denizens of Fix-It Felix Jr. still served their purpose and didn’t get unplugged.
This new film treated unplugging like it didn’t really matter, and Felix himself “covered” for Ralph while he and Vanellope went traipsing over the internet for what seemed like days. Ralph was made to be in that game and now it’s okay that he’s gone? And at the end of the film, Vanellope’s new friend Shank (ugh…what a terrible name) can all of a sudden change Vanellope’s code so that she doesn’t glitch and can regenerate in a game she’s not a part of (which we were told in the previous film was an unchangeable risk to game-hopping)?
Ralph Breaks the Internet broke its own Toy Story-like rules about control of the users. In the previous film, the users were in full control of the game when the arcade was open, much like the toys not being alive when any humans were around.
Covering up for all the short-sighted, shoddy storytelling were the aforementioned internet gags. As clever and funny as they could sometimes be, it was ironic that they served a similar purpose to the real-life aspects of the internet they portray: distracting us from the massive holes in the story with big, shiny things that elicit a chuckle and an “oh yeah!”
It also got to the point where the gags were constantly being shoved in my face for me, with far too many to process. I felt like that bunny in that Pancake-Milkshake game to whom Ralph fed too many pancakes.
This film proved what I had been saying about Gal Gadot since I first saw her in Batman v Superman and the Fast and Furious films. Her acting range in extremely limited, and hearing only her voice made that even more apparent. There was very little real emotion in her voice and I felt sorry for the poor animators who had to bring Shank (ugh…still not a great name) to life. The character itself emoted more than the voices allowed, creating a real unpleasant disconnect.
Finally, let’s talk about that princess scene. It was obnoxious, unnecessary, overlong, and a little insulting. It was sad to see these classic characters from films I have respected and adored for years come under the spell of “wokeness” and third-wave feminism. It’s like the idiotic ramblings of Kristen Bell (who actually voices one of the Frozen sisters) and Kiera Knightley (who got her start as a live-action Disney heroine) came to animated life. The whole scene was a cynical sucker punch (and whose idea was it to have Cinderella wield a broken glass slipper as a weapon?).
The whole princess ordeal really recalled something that Ian Malcolm said in the first Jurassic Park. Just replace “scientists” with “screenwriters.”
It’s stuff like that princess scene, as well as all the now-current internet gags and references, that prevents modern animated films generally, and fairy tales in particular, from becoming truly timeless. Saddling these films with cynical, modern agendas and pop culture references just makes their shelf life that much shorter. You would never see anything like that in a film like Pinocchio, which was made with more care, foresight, and quality than the most sophisticated features today.
Let Her Go, Ralph
Despite its illogic and annoying scenes, Ralph Breaks the Internet did make a very important idea about life part of its central theme.
Wreck-It Ralph, the character, is a creature of habit, so he doesn’t like when things change. However, his best friend Vanellope seems to have all of a sudden become the video game version of a millennial – discontent with her current life, ungrateful for what had happened before, and in search of a new “experience” (another undermining of the first film’s stakes and story).
The cracks began to show early in the film when Ralph freaked out about the possibility of the two being in a small disagreement. But when Vanellope stated her desire to stay within the internet (specifically the Slaughter Race game), Ralph’s fears and apprehension about their relationship’s change got the better of him. His insecurity literally grew into a problem that impacted his whole world.
We can definitely sympathize with Ralph’s plight. When things change in our lives, there’s a lot of uncertainty attached, which breeds fear and apprehension. This can cause us to worry about our circumstances and what will happen next.
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27
Jesus taught about worry and uncertainty during His time on earth. In the Sermon on the Mount, He told the people not to worry about such material things as clothes and food, for the Lord will provide them with what they needed. Gesturing to the birds and the plants around Him, Jesus pointed out that they do not worry about such things because God provides. And we as human beings are far more valuable to God than either animals or plants.
Change is a part of life and, while we should be wary about certain types of change, we shouldn’t worry about the kinds of change that happen as a part of life (for example, we shouldn’t support our friends when they do something sinful or destructive to themselves or others as part of a change). God is sovereign and everything, even the changes in our own lives, happen because He permits it. We can worry like Ralph, but we should look to God in those moments for peace because He has our good in mind.
I have personally struggled with worry in my own life, and it has been a detriment in every circumstance. God had to teach me the hard way not to worry about trivial things. I was very apprehensive about not being able to find a wife and tried to find her myself. What I should have done from the start was to pray to the Lord and ask for Him to guide me to her. I wasted so much time worrying that I didn’t realize she was being prepared for me right in front of my nose.
The Last Word
If this were any other movie but a Wreck-It Ralph sequel, I probably would have enjoyed it more. But this film pretty much eradicated all of the charm and clever logic that made me love the first film. Ralph Breaks the Internet was just a non-stop parade of internet gags (which are somewhat funny today but won’t be in a few years) with an emotional core that wasn’t as powerful as the previous film. In fact, it emotionally contradicted the first film in a lot of ways.
Ralph let his anxieties get the better of him, but we shouldn’t. We have a God who has told us to rely on Him and have faith that He has everything under control. It’s difficult to do sometimes, especially when circumstances seem so confusing or insurmountable. But know that God is sovereign and that He has your good in the forefront of His mind.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.” Matthew 6:34
Originally posted on Reel World Theology.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Jane Lynch,
Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, and Taraji P. Henson
Written by Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon
Based on a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Jim Reardon,
Pamela Ribon, and Josie Trinidad
Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston