I think the most interesting thing about watching ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ in the cinema is how everyone is laughing throughout the film’s almost 2-hour running time but as the film reaches climax, all the children are wondering why all the grownups are crying, myself included.
It’s a wonder how Walt Disney Animation Studios can develop an animated feature film that is enjoyable for both children and adults and still be unbelievably mature and grown-up in its themes and narratives. It’s an animated film about arcade game characters and the lives they lead, but they touch on some very real human relationship issues. Just like how they explore the nature of friendship in ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ in a way that children can understand, and adults can grasp in a completely insightful manner.
Six years after the first film, Ralph and Vanellope are now the best of friends, but a well-meaning act leads to the Sugar Rush console breaking. In order to save the arcade cabinet from being thrown-away (which would lead all the Sugar Rush characters, including Vanellope, homeless), Ralph and Vanellope take an adventure into the internet to find a replacement piece, which would save the game.
Early on into the story, Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship is marked by their devotion to each other’s happiness but also highlighted by the very different outlooks they have in life. Ralph is a villain at “work” but he’s really a genuinely good guy and is content with what he’s got. Vanellope is not just a princess, but she’s a racer, an adrenaline junkie who is looking for the next big thrill. This essential element of their character becomes an interesting turning point into their friendship, as the internet opens up a whole new world for these two characters to journey through and discover about themselves.
The genius about ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ is how these animated adventure of video game characters mirror and reflect upon real-day struggles of people like us. There is a saying that the stories we consume are either about ordinary people doing extraordinary things or, the opposite, extraordinary people doing ordinary things and, surprisingly, ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ finds itself in latter mode.
Ralph and Vanellope are extraordinary in who they are as video game characters but the adventure they take through the internet is, hilariously enough, the ordinary things that we do on the world wide web everyday. Through this lens, our mundane tasks of surfing the net, shopping online, avoiding ads become an adventure to these two incredible people, and in these mundane tasks discover something about themselves and their friendship that is so engaged and real that it can move us.
‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ manages to touch upon in broad strokes how the internet works and how it affects us through the perspective of these two people who’ve never experienced it before, and the effect is astonishing. It simplifies what we read about in think piece articles about how social media and our online habits affects our mindset and psychology. It frames these issues in the form of funny gags and emotional turning points and the story unpacks so many themes such as accountability, clinginess, and power of friendship and the responsibility that comes with it.
It’s unbelievably mature for an animated feature but it’s also unafraid to make fun of itself and the world at large. It’s so familiar that it creeps up on you to land its emotional moments, which can hit the adults very hard because they will see in the film, certain aspects of friendship that everyone has struggled with at some point in their lives.
Just like ‘Wreck-It Ralph,’ ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ was a film I was quick to dismiss because of its pop culture savvy and bright colors and very cartoonish characters. But it’s a franchise now that is full of heart and insight into human nature. Ralph and Vanellope are wonderfully illustrated and voice acted by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, and they are joined by Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Henson playing memorable characters in this whole new world outside of the arcade.
‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ is surprising and mature and funny and extremely enjoyable. It's very human in its portrayal of these characters and the world that it will affect you, and leave you in tears like it did me and the adults around me at the cinema. And despite the fact that the end credits last for 17 minutes, you might want to stay until the very end for a little bonus feature. It’s worth the wait, I think.