Our favorite old-skool video game characters are back, and are coming to a new-skool internet near you. Ralph Breaks the Internet hit theaters over the holiday weekend and wrecked the competition. This film entertains kids with the bright colors and action and fun dialogue. But it’s as much a film for adults as it is for the kiddies.
This time around, Vanellope is feeling frustrated and bored by her racing game, Sugar Rush. Ralph points out there are three whole tracks to choose from, but, after 35+ years, that’s not really doing it for her anymore. Big boned and big hearted Ralph decides to create a new track, but wrecks the game in the process. That means they need to go to the wifi and head to the vast bacchanal that is the internet.
Caught In the Web
Once “WiFi” is plugged in, the internet portal is forbidden to the other game characters, but Ralph and Vanellope have never been ones to adhere to strict rules, so off they go to save her game.
Depending on your age, you’ve either grown with the internet or grown up with it. But Ralph and Van see it for the first time, all at once. From games to spam to information to social media, Ralph Breaks the Internet demonstrates how overwhelming the web is without overwhelming us. It also does it without coming across any um.. adult sites. An internet movie with no porn? Clearly this is a work of fiction.
The Race Is On
Vanellope finds her Nirvana in a racing game that’s always different and filled with bad ass racers who are her digital soul mates. Ralph just wants to get the fix for her game and go back to the way things were, but, as we all know: once you go net you never go back.
So while the kids focus on game quest, adults in the audience will be able to enjoy the relationship building (and destroying) that goes on in cyberspace. Ralph is so threatened by Van’s new VFFs (Virtual Friends Forever) that he literally breaks the internet.
The movie also skewers search engines and spam, games and entertainment. A lot of these jokes will fly by younger viewers faster than Shank’s (Gal Gadot) coveted car, but their parents will enjoy the jokes.
And as far as overall commentary on the effects of the internet & screens in our lives, Ralph does it in a much more relatable way than Ready Player One did earlier this year. While that was a visual feast set in a depressing, dystopic near-future setting, this feels like it’s giving us a look at reality and offering us options on how to proceed.
Trailers and commercials have played up Vanellope’s encounters with a gaggle of Disney Princesses. This is another story tangent will resonate with kids and adults. The princesses don’t just make a cameo, they return to help save the day and for once, save a big strong man in trouble rather than the other way around.
In addition to going meta and spoofing every aspect of cartoon princesses, they also inspire a fresh song of reflection as Vanellope stares into water. It’s funny, it’s cheesy, but it’s also still kinda cool. Not everyone’s loving it, but I really did.
The Race Is Long
That’s not to say this film doesn’t have its flaws. We mentioned the “princess story tangent.” Really this movie is a series of vignettes and tangents with a somewhat strong narrative thread holding them all together. But this film really rivals an episode of Family Guy for the title of A.D.D. Media Champion.
And the last act, where Ralph (finally) breaks the internet is waaayyy too long. The film already had a nice landing spot and could have resolved remaining issues quicker. I say that as an adult, but the kids in the audience were quickly getting restless as well.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
Root beer, with a shot of Root Beer Schnapps. After hours, Ralph and Vanellope would go to Tappers for a drink and belching session. I can’t think of anything better.. except of course to add the schnapps.