When considering “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” I paused to reflect on cinema and the Internet. It’s funny. The Internet is, perhaps, the greatest influence on the social lens and our media… but it is relatively untouched as a film subject.
Not a lot of films are made about the Internet and, of the films that do exist, horror and anxiety elements reign supreme: “Transcendence,” “The Circle,” “Unfriended” and its sequel, and the truly horrific “Emoji Movie.”
Why is it so hard to capture the Internet in a film, without playing to the anxieties that are just generally associated with technology, power, and the unknown? Because the Internet is a vast, constantly evolving thing and, I would say, the process of filmmaking is too long to fully pull off what drives the Internet. I’m talking about trends.
Trends are tough to capture in film. But “Ralph Breaks the Internet” does a fairly decent job and it makes for an enjoyable watch.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is the sequel to 2012’s “Wreck-It Ralph.” The film stars John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Alan Tudyk, Taraji P. Henson and is directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore.
In this sequel, 80’s arcade game villain, Ralph, and princess/racer Vanellope Von Schweetz discover a new addition to the arcade… a Wifi router. Our heroes find themselves on an adventure, surfing the World Wide Web, and facing new challenges to their sense of identity and their friendship with each other.
If there’s one thing to be said for “Ralph Breaks the Internet” it’s that it is one big reference game. The film is inundated with sight gags featuring your favorite websites and callbacks to some favorite viral videos.
Despite being a tad behind the most current memes, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has a solid grasp on what makes the Internet so loved. From cameos by Youtubers to explorations of fan forums to the bitter-sweet duality of validation through “hearts” and the desolation of an Internet comment section.
The film is incredibly aware of exactly what the Internet provides for people; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
That is the greatest strength of “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” It is a very frank discussion of web culture. Not to mention that it pulls it off with incredible style. It’s a really pretty film and very clever in its design.
Standout moments can be attributed to the Taraji P. Henson’s performance as the Master of the Algorithm, Yessss, and pretty much every moment the Disney Princesses were on screen. What had been jeered at, in trailers, as “property porn” brings some of the greatest laughs of the film.
Unfortunately, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” does not have the heart and sincerity of the first film. While there is some discussion on loss and the true meaning of friendship, it feels like it is too little too late.
The actual story and message of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” play second-fiddle to the flurry of references and fun asides. It doesn’t make it a bad movie. It just makes it an incoherent movie.
Now that you have my big pros and my big cons, here are some nitpicks:
- Nostalgia is HUGE on the Internet. How is it possible that an arcade game that still draws in a young crowd only yields a SINGLE search result?!
- Needs more princesses.
- I’m so happy that, in a film about video games, I can use the term “tryhard.” “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a total try hard, with the volume of references it tries to flash in front of your face.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a fun watch. The kids will love it, there are some jokes for the parents, and plenty of sight goodies for anyone who spends an unhealthy amount of time on the Internet (*raises hand*). What it lacks in solid storytelling, it makes up for with beautiful visuals and fun observations.
If you’re gonna see it, go for the Princesses.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is in theatres now!
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.