‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ dives into friendships, internet memes

Graham Shapley

Friendships change, even friendships between a go-cart racer and a guy who wrecks buildings for a living. This is the main theme of the new Disney animated movie “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”

“Wreck-It Ralph” surprised audiences in 2012 with a heartfelt story that focuses on video game characters inside an acarade. With a message of self-love and a video game aesthetic, the movie was moderately successful with a rating of 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

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The sequel “Ralph Breaks the Internet” kicks off with an incident damaging character Vanellope von Schweetz’s (Sarah Silverman) arcade cabinet. This renders her and the other residents of her game homeless unless a replacement part can be ordered online.

For those who liked the first movie because of its subject matter, namely the video game aesthetics, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” may not appeal that much. As the title implies, Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope exit their arcade to the World Wide Web, realized in gorgeous Disney-style 3D animation. Video game humor still abounds, but the focus shifts toward commentary on internet and meme culture.

For viewers who want to see how characters grow and change, this film might hit the spot. Ralph and Vanellope share the spotlight, but other fan-favorite characters like Fix-it Felix (Jack McBrayer), a character that embraces the ever-enthusiastic Mario pastiche and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a gun-toting hero of a single shooter game, are pushed to the sidelines.

After a series of shenanigans involving a bidding war on eBay and an attempt to get rich quick by playing video games, the real thrust of the story is revealed. Ralph must become a viral video star to earn the cash for the needed part.

This portion of the movie, while quite funny, is full of memes and references to other viral videos that will likely be stale within the next few years. The trouble with making a film about internet culture is that it moves too fast to keep up with. With contemporary references to popular video game “Fortnite,” screaming goat memes and bee puns, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” feels dated before even leaving theaters.

While Ralph becomes a viral star, Vanellope winds up on the Disney website where she comes across all of the classic Disney princesses in a single room. This scene is hilarious and would have been ten times better if the entire thing wasn’t spoiled in the trailers.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is now playing in theaters.

One of the major problems with the movie is lack of surprises. The message is laid out early and stomped into the dust. Most adults watching the movie can probably see where the story is going.

That doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when Ralph and Vanellope want different things from their lives. The stress this puts on their friendship shines through and will hit home with audience members, especially for those going through a transition in their lives.

All of this culminates in a finale which makes the movie worthwhile. It includes one of the most unsettling visuals from Disney animation and some fun pay-off for the chaos earlier in the movie, as well as the emotional core of the story. Finally, in true Disney fashion, there is a clip after the credits. It is from an upcoming movie, and I promise it is worth waiting for.

Should you see it?: Yes, if you liked the first one. 

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“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is not a bad film by any means, and there’s a lot to love. It’s just not quite great. Personally, I’ll probably return to the original movie when I want to see these characters and the creativity of their world, but I can see people enjoying this one equally or potentially more than the first.

Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @shapleygraham.