In his headline review of Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mitch Ringenberg wrote “What is surprising, though, is how this installment manages to rise above the tepid original as a sweet-natured piece of pop-culture osmosis, even if it is almost entirely forgettable.” A fair take. We saw the movie at a press screening back in November. At the time I disagreed with him; I was pretty impressed, particularly because I’m not a fan of the original Wreck-It Ralph. Since then, Internet disappeared into the ether of holiday offerings and the substantial animated competition of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. When I got a copy of Ralph to review, I watched through it again and was again impressed by the kindness at its heart albeit now without the experience of enjoying its surprises for the first time. Do I recommend this movie? For sure, especially if you enjoyed the first and, in its home-video format, especially the special features.
It’s been a good decade since Disney started releasing animated sequels on the big screen rather than shunting them off onto VHS tapes. In the 1990s, there were always a few lousy follow-ups every year, including The Return of Jafar, Simba’s Pride, Pocahontas 2. All were by no means terrible, just culturally lessened by their mode of delivery and lower budgets. Internet seems haunted by its need to exist as a theatrical film. Bigger, more audacious than the first, justifying its own existence. To the team’s credit, they came up with a story that feels naturally in line with the first movie’s conclusion and takes Ralph in an emotional and reasonable direction. The references to Disney, in particular, give it a wide appeal and are the most entertaining bits. But there’s still a nervousness to the movie as it it needs to prove itself. It overcomes the question, but the question noticeably permeates the narrative nonetheless.
The DVD / Blu-Ray release is not loaded with special features but it does include one 30-minute documentary that complements the detail-oriented approach to the film. Much of the appeal of the first movie was the references to classic arcade culture; here, it’s all of the inside jokes about the internet (and the Disney-owned IP, including Star Wars and Disney Princesses). Watching Ralph is, in part, a fun scavenger hunt. More endearing is watching the designers of Ralph’s world describe the thought and care that went into their construction of the film.
If you are into looking for contemporary life lessons about growing up, Ralph offers a thoughtful take on making sure friendship doesn’t slide into unhealthy co-dependence. Lots of nice references to properties you love, some funny character bits. What’s not to love about this release?