Ralph Breaks the Internet, a sequel to 2012’s Wreck-It-Ralph, released only a couple weeks ago (November 21). This is the first time I’ve seen an animated Disney movie while it’s still in theaters since Frozen, and the first movie that Disney Animation Studios releases since I started my ambitious blogathon last year.
Development for Ralph Breaks The Internet began not too long after Wreck-It-Ralph released. Rich Moore, who directed both movies, spoke in October of 2012 about how he already had multiple ideas for the sequel. One major point is that he wanted to explore console games and online games, bringing Wreck-It-Ralph’s characters into the modern age. That said, they were still planning the sequel’s overall story as late as 2016. Phil Johnston, the first film’s co-writer, made his directorial debut with Breaks The Internet as Moore’s co-director.
Two working version of the script were scrapped before they settled on the one used in the films. In one version, Vanellope became self-absorbed by the internet, becoming a bit of an online celebrity. Meanwhile, Ralph got thrown in jail, where he met the Knowsmore search engine. They planned to escape together and help Vanellope rediscover her true self. Another version had Ralph become the internet celebrity, but he’d be challenged by an anti-virus program, Bev, who would serve as the movie’s main villain. As much as the self-absorbed plot sounds like it could have been an interesting examination of internet culture and fame obsessed youth, they decided not to use that idea.
They eventually decided on a central theme about how friendships change. In the time between the two films, Ralph and Vanellope become best of friends. But as much as they’re friends, and Ralph is now very satisfied with how his life is going, Vanellope is bored of the same old race every day. Instead of making the internet the focus of the movie, it’s only acts as the setting. It’s a setting that is still used a lot for meme references, fan websites and exploring viral videos, but the story is about Ralph and Vanellope.
The core cast all returns for the sequel. John C. Reilly signed on early to portray Ralph again, and he’s great in the role of the classic arcade villain who breaks things. Sarah Silverman returns as Vanellope von Schweetz, the star of the racing game Sugar Rush. The other characters also return, but most of the movie takes place away from the arcade, so they only get bit parts. Instead, this movie introduces Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) as Shank, a tough racer in the online racer, Slaughter Race. She’s a fun character with a fun crew of, uh … I’ll just call them mercs. Taraji P. Henson plays Yesss, an algorithm that helps select trending videos on BuzzzTube. Her personality and character model are loosely based on Cruella de Vil, just that she’s actually a nice, helpful person. Alan Tudyk plays Knows More, who represents the in-universe search engine, Knowsmore. He previously voiced King Candy, the main villain in Wreck-it-Ralph.
It’s also worth noting that a bunch of Disney Princess actresses appear in this movie, most of which are voiced by their original voice actress. You’ve got Jodi Benson as Ariel, Paige O’Hara as Belle, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, Irene Bedard as Pocahontas, Ming-Na Wen as Mulan, Anika Noni Rose as Tiana, Mandy Moore as Rapunzel, Kelly Macdonald as Merida, Kristen Bell as Anna and Idina Menzel as Elsa from Frozen, and Auli’I Cravalho as Moana. Joining them is the legendary voice actress Jennifer Hale as Cinderella, Kate Higgins as Aurora and screenwriter Pamela Ribon (also helped write Moana) as Show White.
When I say that Hale is legendary, I mean that she’s recognized by Guinness World Records as the most prolific video game voice actor (female). She’s probably most known for playing femshep in Mass Effect, but she’s also known for Knights of the Old Republic, Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, and 4, in addition to appearing in animated TV shows like Powerpuff Girls, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, Wolverine and the X-Men, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes … you get the idea, she’s a big name in voice acting. She’s even done some live action roles, but that’s enough about the cast.
Also, they got all of these voice acting legends together just for what amounts to a glorified cameo.
Like how the first Wreck-It-Ralph included a number of licensed video game appearances, this movie includes a number of trademarked internet sites. EBay is directly involved with the plot, and you’ve got logos from Google, Facebook, Amazon, Fandango, Twitter and YouTube all making cameos.
This movie’s total earnings is far from determined, but as of December 2 (two days ago as of this writing), it’s earned $207 million worldwide on a $175 budget. It’s well on its way to be profitable. It earned $84 million in its first five days, giving it the studio’s second-best Thanksgiving opening, behind Frozen. Not bad for a movie that opened alongside Creed II and Robin Hood. As of now, the movie holds an approval rating of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.3/10. Most critics agree it’s pretty much level with Wreck It Ralph in terms of entertainment, character relationships and story.
As for my own thoughts, well … I agree with the general critical consensus in that it’s pretty much equal to the original. Seeing as how I felt the original is ok, that’s how I feel about this one. I can see why people would like this movie. It does a good job at exploring how friendships change over time. It explores how it’s perfectly fine for friends to have different goals in life, even if that sometimes means you won’t get to see each other as much anymore. To avoid spoiling the story I won’t say more, but for those who like the main characters, it’s a bit of a bittersweet ending. It’s a bittersweet ending that’s well told.
There is one scene I got hung up on quite a bit, and this bugged me even when I saw the trailer. It’s about the scene where Vanellope meets all the Disney Princesses. They keep asking Vanellope questions to see if she’s one of them. Specifically, the line where Rapunzel says “And now for the million dollar question: Do people assume all your problems got solved because a big strong man showed up?”
I’m not sure why people think this is such a big assumption. That’s pretty much true with two of the early Disney Princess movies, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. But in Cinderella’s case, it’s the Fairy Godmother who saves her, not Prince Charming. In Tangled, Rapunzel and Eugene save each other in multiple ways to the point; they’re pretty much equal. In Frozen, the sisters save each other – nobody who watches the movie would think otherwise. In Pocahontas, the title character is the one who saves the “big strong man”. I realize the movie might be making fun of how parts of today’s overly sensitive modern day culture is looking down on the classic Disney Princess model, calling it problematic, but that line still takes me out of the movie. There’s another similar line towards the end of the movie that also kind of takes me out, as it’s an inverted repeat of the joke.
With that said, there’s a later scene involving all the princesses that makes a very compelling case for the rumoured Princess Avengers movie. The directors even comment6ed that if there’s demand for it, and they can figure out a story, they might come up with some sort of related spin-off. I’d be up for that.
As much as this movie is down my alley in a number of ways, the reason I don’t like it is the same reason I don’t like the first Wreck-It-Ralph all that much. Silverman as Vanellope mildly annoys me. This story focuses more on her than it does on Ralph, who I find to be a much more compelling character. It’s why I found the first act of Wreck-it-Ralph to be the best part, because Vanellope wasn’t in it. Vanellope is in this entire movie.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is a well-made movie. The writing is good. There’s creative use of internet culture. The visuals are always colourful and pleasant to look at. There are moments that are genuinely funny, and I’ve got to say, Slaughter Race looks fun in an over-the-top sort of way. With all that said, how much you like this movie will very much depend on whether you like Sarah Silverman or not. If you’re like me, the first Disney Princess scene might be a bit off-putting as well. It’s not as long or as amusing as one would hope, especially considering how they bothered to get all of the original voice actors who are still around. Mary Costa, who voiced Aurora in the original Sleeping Beauty, is still alive, but she retired from both acting and singing in 2000. The other two original actors passed away years ago.
If you liked the original Wreck-It-Ralph, you’ll very likely enjoy this. If you thought the original is just ok, you’ll probably feel the same about this one. And if you haven’t seen Wreck-It-Ralph, I’d recommend that you see that before you watch this one, both to gage how you feel about it and so that you get the full emotional impact of this movie’s events in case you do enjoy it.
The next movie in Disney Animation Studio’s production list is Frozen 2, slated for release almost exactly one year after Ralph Breaks the Internet. Unfortunately, their next movie, Gigantic, was announced cancelled since my last Disney related post, citing that they just couldn’t get the story to work. I was looking forward to that one. As of right now, the title of the next movie after Frozen 2 is not announced. I can’t help but wonder if they’ve got something special in mind for number 60, and if they’re still keeping it in that slot, moving forward number 59 instead. My next movie post will likely be for Deadpool 2, and then I’ll finally get around to trying to rate all the Pixar movies in order of my personal preference.