In 2014, it was Kim Kardashian and her oiled, prominent posterior that “broke the internet.” Four years later, the term is a thing, and thankfully there’s no recreation of Kim K’s famous pose by the hulking, titular character in “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” a delightful sequel to Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph,” the story of an 8-bit bad guy who learns to love the life he’s desitned to lead in the virtual world of his classic arcade game.
In that film, Ralph (John C. Reilly) became best friends with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a cherubic little girl from “Sugar Rush,” an arcade racing game next door to his own cabinet. Now six years later, they seemingly have it made, working all day in their games at what they’re good at (busting buildings or fancy driving), and goofing off all night, drinking root beers from “Tapper” and stacking the perfect snack in “BurgerTime.”
When one day the “Sugar Rush” steering wheel is broken by an overzealous driver in the real world (these movies have more than a little in common with the logic of “Tron,” in which users control and interact with programs depicted by humanoid-like characters), Ralph determines to save Vanellope’s game by finding a replacement part. To do that, he and Vanellope leave their comfy home for the vast expanse of the Internet.
The movie has a lot of fun with the tropes and characteristics of the net, from an enthusiastic search engine whose auto-correct function is too sensitive, to pop-up characters selling everything from get-rich-quick schemes to useless products. There are nods and visits to eBay, social media sites, and in a sequence so wacky it overcame my cynicism for corporate synergy, the Disney princesses use their superpowers (Ariel and Moana = water, Pocahontas = wind, Cinderella = sewing with mice, etc.) to help Ralph and Vanellope along during a visit to Oh My Disney. Vanellope even gets to sing a song penned by Alan Menken, brought on for this movie specifically to write an ode to “Slaughter Race,” the dangerous “Grand Theft Auto”-esque online racing game that Vanellope falls for almost instantly.
Having been billed as the “bad guy” since the early 1980s, Ralph is understandably a little insecure. Fearful he may lose Vanellope to her new friends, he comes up with a scheme to make “Slaughter Race” less attractive, but instead unleashes chaos on the Internet itself. To right himself, he has to learn to let go, appreciate the differnces between him and his best friend, and understand that those friendships can grow even stronger when we let go just a little bit. Ralph also learns a lesson about the net that I hope every kid watching this film takes to heart. Never read the comments section. It’s trash.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a sweet movie, and I loved the endless parade of clever in-jokes and Easter eggs that fill the screen. The extra features on the Blu-ray of the film are above average, as the filmmakers explain their thought process behind the design, casting, and production of the film, including how best to present the concept of the Internet visually, and even musically. I don’t know where Ralph and Vanellope could go next after the World Wide Web, but I’d gladly follow along.