Ralph Breaks the Internet / Wreck-It Ralph 2 (2018)
Dirs: Phil Johnston & Rich Moore
Wreck-It Ralph in 2012 was one of the films that marked a real return to form for Disney Animation (not including Pixar) and was a surprisingly enjoyable film that was full of fun and heart. Now this sequel, that I must say has gone a little under the radar in comparison, takes us back to that world of video games and the friendship between brawny Ralph and his diminutive racecar-driving best friend Vanellope.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) have to venture into the world wide web to get a replacement part so her arcade game isn’t scrapped.
With the expansive world of gaming, I suppose there was always plenty of scope for ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ to get sequels, especially now that the concept of the internet has been brought into their world and that opens up endless possibilities. As with the first film, this leans on the unlikely pairing of the two lead characters, now firm buddies, sending them on a quest into worlds that are unfamiliar to them but fairly familiar to us. There’s a really interesting development to the central characters involved too, that their lives and friendship has become mundane and repetitive, which struck me as a solid problem they would have to deal with.
The voice cast is still as strong as ever and the central friendship works pretty well, their friendship is quite cute. The other characters from the first film all get left behind, literally and narratively, they appear but more to bookend the story and serve next to no part through it. Though it’s clear that the two audiences care most about are Ralph and Venelope, it still seems a shame to have these other great characters doing nearly nothing. Vanellope finds variety and excitement in a gritty driving game, something that offers a glimpse into the rougher games that would not have any other place being featured in a kids film like this. Gal Gadot voices the reigning champion driver in that game and her voice is perfect for it so that was a smart choice.
The way the internet is presented is incredibly silly, understandably simplified to make it easy so it can work for the narrative and be a vibrant visual. Alfred Molina voices a wormlike character, one of the biggest missteps of the film, an odd diversion into the dark web, a concept that should be over the heads of any children and slightly too grotesque for a film in which the best character is a tiny sweet-based girl. The end antagonist idea didn’t work very well for me at all, I would have preferred their obstacle being something a little less physically ominous, scaling it down to focus on the emotional hurdles that are mixed in but get a bit lost in the final act.
One of the biggest parts of building anticipation for this film was teasing that it would feature versions of the Disney princesses, briefly seen in the trailer. They have little more than one cameo scene, it’s great, the dialogue is some of the best writing. I imagine that when the idea was raised the writers ended up riffing on what they could discuss, I bet that was a fun time. There was apparently mention of a spin-off if audiences responded well to it. I don’t know how well that would work, it’s a densely packed few minutes in this film but stretched out to the length of a full feature the jokes might wear thin and it would be less amusing. Definitely potential there for a short or two, Disney and Disney/Pixar have these as part of their animated releases as standard now so there would be the opportunity to do so, especially with some of the movies that aren’t Princess related in themselves.
It’s a decent sequel but doesn’t do a lot to build on the charm of the first, what there is to love is largely residual. Though it’s enjoyable spending time in the company of the two leads, the film loses its way a little with what to do with them and doesn’t fully capitalise on the fun of their disparate personalities together as much as it could, especially as their friendship and very existence is put at stake.
Nominated for Best Animated Feature at this years Oscars, unlike the first film, it has no chance of winning. Not because it’s not good, but there are better, much better films against it this year. It did just as well at the Box Office as the first film, so if there’s another story to be told, I don’t see why a third film couldn’t happen though I don’t see any need to rush, though the Princesses with their new recruit Vanellope will likely pop up somewhere before Ralph does.