Wreck-It Ralph was a welcome surprise when it landed in 2012. Venturing beyond the traditional Disney animation staples of fairy tales and talking animals, it mixed video game pop-culture with smarts and heart in an extremely appealing confection. It felt like a one-off, so now the ‘Continue Playing’ countdown is ticking, is it worth inserting another coin to carry on?
The answer is… just about. Ditching the original’s arcade setting for the worldwide web, Ralph Breaks the Internet sees the Donkey Kong-proportioned video game ‘baddie’ (John C. Reilly) venture online with his diminutive bestie Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) in order to acquire a part that will save her game from the scrapheap. The plot moves zippily from one segment to the next, as the two internet explorers need to raise some serious digital dollars after an online auction goes wrong, leading them into the world of online gaming, video sharing, and viral nasties.
The first film licensed an array of recognisable video game characters, which made the world feel authentic and also provided the opportunity to skewer some thumb-twiddling favourites. It also added an Easter egg hunt dimension to the experience. Here, there’s an inventive and witty solution to the way digital avatars navigate the online world, and some fun to be had replicating eBay, Twitter, and autocomplete search engines, but most of the licensed brands are little more than logos floating in the background. The internet is a harder world to warm to than the gaming one, as it lacks that warm, nostalgic glow, and the inherent dangers are underplayed here.
Thankfully Ralph and Vanellope are still an engaging lead duo, and Reilly and Silverman do effective work, even if the script could’ve benefited from a few more zingers. But the new characters don’t add much. There’s Shank (Gal Gadot), a character in a violent online racing game who befriends Vanellope, and Yesss (Taraji P. Henson), the head of ‘BuzzTube’ a leading video-sharing website. They bear few surprises, and are surprisingly thin characters given the starry voice talent. A grotesque virus dealer, meanwhile, feels ported from another film entirely.
If it doesn’t always work as a whole, there are some great individual moments. The standout sequence of the film is a visit to official fansite Oh My Disney, featuring a host of Marvel, Star Wars, and general House of Mouse cameos. The best bit sees Vanellope hanging with all of the Disney Princesses: it’s hilarious, sharp, and irreverent, and as good as anything in the first film. It’s this segment, plus a couple of nicely done chases and an imaginative big boss battle, that manages to save Ralph from the slight sense of unnecessary sequel that pervades. Now feels like time to retire Ralph before he wrecks the original’s goodwill.
- Release date: November 21, 2018 (US)/November 30, 2018 (UK)
- Certificate: PG
- Running time: 112 mins