The Cambridge Geek

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Vanellope is bored. Her racing game has a limited number of tracks, and she's played them to death. Luckily, Ralph is on hand to do what he does best. That's not light construction. It's wrecking things. Not the greatest plan, when they're in an old arcade with a limited budget and a slightly shaky approach to maintenance. One angry child later, and her cabinet has a very broken steering wheel.

It's very lucky indeed then that they've just had a new router installed, and the characters now have access to the internet. One internet search later (there should really be a verb for that), a replacement wheel is found on Ebay. Now they just need to find some way of making a bit of money to purchase a weirdly niche item, despite not knowing what PayPal is.

This is basically three films smashed into one. The first film is Wreck It Ralph 2, and is fairly solid. It has some nice emotional beats, a good exploration of Vanellope, and some very cool gaming sequences. Vanellope jumping around between the different environments has a very ReBoot feel, which was pleasantly nostalgic. The third act is a bit predictable, but it's a decent attempt at plucking the heart strings.

The second film is Disney's "we own everything now" self-congratulatory ode. Some elements of this are excellent, such as the Princess scene so featured in the trailers. They are enjoyably meta, not afraid to take the mickey out of themselves (pun only partly unintended), and don't feel patronising in their approach to female empowerment. Short, sweet, one of the best bits of the film. Other bits are painful, and also possibly horrifying. Star Wars everywhere is annoying. Stan Lee's cameo has disturbing similarities to the work they did on the CGI Peter Cushing, and unpleasant implications that Disney can own you even beyond the grave. Still waiting for that horror film, "The Day I Became a Disney Princess".

The final storyline is Meme: The Film. This is one of those films that exist almost entirely to hit you in the face with as many references as can be crammed into an hour and a half, so you sit there going "I get that reference", and can feel smug enough that you think you're enjoying it. Honestly, some of them hit, (a particular spinny riff I massively enjoyed), but some are overdone. It's probably a problem inherent to creating an animated film with a long lead time, when the cultural touchstones people have change daily.

Also, even though it's a children's film, the image of the internet feels oddly sanitised. Twitter is a bunch of birds sat in a tree. Absolutely none of them are Nazis. Wildly unrealistic. And there's not a single nipple anywhere. Then there's the pop-ups, which haven't been a feature of the net for the last decade. We have adblockers now, and pop-up blockers pretty much built into browsers. Things like that seem slightly dated. The same problem applies to the presence or absence of various internet bodies, with most of them being present in the background, but only Ebay getting a plot relevant mention. Everyone else is given a lawyer friendly replacement.

Some points really are brilliant. Gal Gadot as Shanks should probably have a film of her own. The interface between players and NPCs and the different ways they behave is very nifty. There's a TED talk joke that perfectly sums up all of the problems with them. Vanellope really is a wonderful protagonist. She has a complex personality that feels more real than anything else in the film. And some of the Disney parody moments are clever. (Made me want to rewatch Enchanted, one of my favourite Disneys.)

It just doesn't quite hang together as a cohesive piece, bouncing around the three plotlines, and each of them gets a climax that is a bit disappointing. The Disney one runs an idea a bit too long, the Ralph one is emotionally predictable and feels like it's stealing a recent Guardians of the Galaxy ending, and the net mostly just falls off, which is actually a bit of a relief.

Overall, aspects are good, but it might have been better as a few separate short films rather than trying to pull it into one narrative. Good soundtrack though. (Although if I hear let it go one more time, I may need to murder someone.)

Score 3

Tagged: Film Animated comedy Workplace/Employment Fiction Cinema