Walt Disney has virtually perfected the method of tapping into the consciousness of its audience to tickle those parts that bring us the most joy. Whether through animating classic stories like The Little Mermaid and Cinderella or crafting live-action iterations of novels like Mary Poppins, Disney touches the parts of ourselves that embrace imagination, the parts that we may have lost growing up, the parts we hope to pass down to our children. In this regard, it should surprise no one that in when Disney released Wreck-It Ralph, an ode to the Gaming Generation, the film took off like gangbusters. Starring the vocal talents of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, and more, Ralph took 2012 audiences inside the arcade games of their youth, enabling them to imagine what happens after the arcades shut down and the characters are left to their own devices. Continuing the adventures of the central cast six years later, Ralph Breaks the Internet takes the mostly juvenile story of the first film and matures it. The resulting experience is a darker one whose joyous conclusion contains traces of melancholy, surprising for a film aimed at children, yet novel for a series potentially intent on aging with its audience.
Every night after Litwak’s Arcade closes, best friends Ralph (Reilly) and Vanellope (Silverman) leave their respective games to hang out with each other. For Ralph, everything is perfect: it’s a life of routine predictability and ease. For Vanellope, the monotony of racing the same three tracks every day and visiting Tappers every night just isn’t enough anymore. Trying to make things more interesting for Vanellope, Ralph makes some adjustments to her game Sugar Rush. What happens after these adjustments upsets the player and results in a broken steering wheel controller for the machine. Unable to afford the new part, Litwak (voiced by Ed O’Neil) plans to mothball the game, sending the entire population of Sugar Rush into a panic as being unplugged leads to their homelessness or permanent deletion. In a desperate attempt to fix things, Ralph and Vanellope travel to the Internet in hopes of purchasing a new steering wheel from Ebay. In their quest to earn cash to pay for the wheel, they encounter a virtual world unlike anything they’ve ever seen or experienced. What began as a journey to save Sugar Rush slowly turns into a journey to save their friendship, too.
Unlike Wreck-It, the follow-up’s narrative isn’t as cleanly structured, nor as smoothly executed. With Ralph as the focal point in the original, the motivations for everything are crystal clear. Through his POV, the audience evenly encounters characters, learns information, and naturally goes from one key point to another. In Internet, Ralph and Vanellope share the thematic core, which means that time must be spent exploring each of their motivations. Additionally, there’s an entirely new world to explore, resulting in several narrative slowdowns as the new environment gets unpacked. Sometimes this means the audience gets little jokes about pop-up ads which end up serving the narrative in a clear way, or it results in grander jokes, like one involving the conclave of Disney Princesses, which mostly serve as a means of poking fun at themselves and providing a small assist to the narrative at a later point. Though Internet is not dull in the slightest, there’s a slow growing awareness of just how long the film takes to progress its story.
She Is A Princess (Special Features Clip)
While there are plenty of fun references for the audience to delight in, Internet doubles-down on the heaviness inherent in the Ralph character. The initial introduction into the world of Ralph back in 2012 is one which audiences remember, yet never seem to dwell on. Through a voiceover, Ralph sets up everything we need to know in order to acclimate to the arcade game-based world. It’s a simple means of world-building which enables the audience to grasp what’s going to happen for the rest of the film, but then the turn comes. Ralph wasn’t talking to the audience, but to a support group of fellow video game villains: a ghost from Pac-Man, M. Bison from the Street Fighter series, Bowser from the Super Mario series and more. What was once expected to be a silly story involving gaming characters from the audience’s youth becomes something a little richer. These are characters in a game who follow their programming, yet dislike the burden of being the villain. As the BAD-Anon mantra suggests, “just because you’re a Bad Guy, doesn’t mean that you’re a bad guy.” Ralph is a guy whose whole life up until six years ago was to be treated horribly by the characters of his game and finally found companionship in kindred spirit Vanellope. By pursuing a narrative which sees Vanellope wishing to grow and evolve as a person, Internet takes a hard turn into Ralph’s deep-rooted psychosis. At this point, the film actually goes full-stop on the “for kids” fun as it takes a hard dive into exploring toxic friendships, the importance of self-love, and the dark side of the Internet. It’s an incredibly bold move for a sequel, seeking to shine a light on areas of social interaction which the audience may be ready to identify within themselves.
But you didn’t come here for just an opinion of the film. You want to know if the bonus features add anything to the experience.
There’s a tiered system of which version gets what. The DVD edition only contains the music videos for “Zero” by Imagine Dragons and, the song which makes Vanellope a true Disney Princess, “In This Place” by Julia Michaels. If you’re looking for more, you’ll need to head to the multi-screen Blu-ray edition or the 4K Ultra combo pack, both of which include digital access. Included are the typical bonus videos highlighting some of the easter eggs hidden throughout the films, deleted scenes, and the aforementioned music videos. The real fun is found in the 33-minute video How We Broke the Internet exploring the design of the Netizens (the characters which operate inside the Internet), the Users, and the Internet itself. It may not sound exciting, but to learn the thought process of the design for the whole film and how it informed the execution of characters and the narrative is absolutely fascinating. For example, the fact that Ralph and Vanellope retain their traditional forms and don’t take on the look of a User is purposeful. Just like in Litwak’s, they are visiting the Internet same as when they visited other games, so their form retains its shape and the rules remain in place: they die outside their game, they die for real. While surfing the web, this doesn’t seem important, but it amplifies the stakes as the two adventurers jump from general web browsing and explore online games, social areas, and even the Dark Web. Or how the animation of the 1950s and 1960s inspired the design and function of the character Knowsmore (voiced by Tudyk), an older search engine the Users utilize instead of Google. Not only did the science of the Internet and history of animation inform the design of the film, so did the performances of the voice cast, which we get to see in a few snippets. These kinds of tidbits make the experience of Ralph Breaks the Internet more rich. Of all the special features included, please be advised that only editions with digital access will include Baby Drivers: Slaughter Racing School, a fun video documenting the artists and animators undergoing actual driver training in preparation for designing the more advanced racing sequences within Ralph Breaks the Internet. Though this is explored a bit in How We Broke the Internet, Baby Driver offers a few outtakes from that experience.
What is the Internet? (Special Features Clip)
Ralph Breaks the Internet is an unexpected experience. Coming off of the rather novel Wreck-It Ralph, the sequel not only goes somewhere new in the world, but it consciously continues the internal arcs of the characters in a way which is not likely to be appropriate for really young audiences. But that’s ok. By exploring the darker parts of Ralph, parts which were never fixed by the culmination of Wreck-It, Ralph Breaks the Internet has an opportunity to really dig into the significance of self-love and the damage it can cause to others when our insecurities become our sole motivations. It’s a good lesson making the chances the film takes on the darker nuances of the film worthwhile. It is, however, good to be aware of before diving into Ralph Breaks the Internet with your youngest ones.
Full List of Features:
Blu-Ray & Digital:
- How We Broke the Internet –Go behind the scenes at Walt Disney Animation Studios to get an in-depth look at how the filmmakers brought a world to life that billions of people visit every day but never actually see – the internet. Take a front-row seat as the team reveals the inspirations for the story and what it took to bring it to the screen. Discover all that went into developing the characters of the film including netizens like KnowsMore as well as characters like Double Dan. See the lengths the team took to create the car chase scenes in Slaughter Race and much, much more.
- Surfing for Easter Eggs – Surf the web for the near-countless Easter Eggs, inside jokes and references hidden throughout the movie.
- The Music of Ralph Breaks the Internet – Take a look at the music of Ralph Breaks the Internet with appearances by Imagine Dragons, Julia Michaels, Alan Menken, Sarah Silverman and more.
- Deleted Scenes – Five deleted scenes with intros from directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston. Scenes include Into the Internet, Opposites, Domestic Hell, Bubble of One & Recruiting “Grandma.”
- BuzzzTube Cats – Many videos were created by the animators to fill the screens of the Internet world…and lots of them are of cats! Check out the BuzzzTube to watch this hilarious cat compilation.
- Music Videos – “Zero” by Imagine Dragons and “In This Place” by Julia Michaels.
- Baby Drivers – Slaughter Racing School – Take a spin behind the wheel with the artists behind Ralph Breaks the Internet as they go to race car driving school.
- Music Videos – “Zero” by Imagine Dragons and “In This Place” by Julia Michaels.
Available on digital beginning February 12th, 2019.
Available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD beginning February 26th, 2019.
Final (Film) Score: 4 out of 5.