Ralph Breaks the Internet: Top-notch gags, no plot

Review: A persistent kowtowing to corporate interests flattens this family film

Film Title: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Director: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore

Starring: John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk

Genre: Animation

Running Time: 112 min

Thu, Nov 29, 2018, 06:00

   

Even if you weren’t aware of the agreeable 2012 Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph, you would, on sitting down to Ralph Breaks the Internet, quickly discern that you were at the beginning of a sequel.

The point is not that the story is hard to follow. The giveaway is that sense of boring order that sets in when one episode of a comedy has all its loose ends tidied away (when Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro make up at the end of a Meet The Parents instalment for instance).

Don’t worry. It doesn’t last. Ralph (voiced well by John C Reilly), former brute from a platform game Fix-It Felix Jr, and Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced even better by Sarah Silverman), speed star from the racing game Sugar Rush, are living in equilibrium when a vital part for Sugar Rush gets broken.

The two use their arcade’s newly upgraded internet connection to access the world that lies beyond the wires. Surely they can find the missing steering wheel at an auction site.

The recent, terrible (though not so terrible as some say) The Emoji Movie has stolen a little bit of the team’s thunder. Like that film, Ralph Breaks the Internet is concerned mostly with animated gags about discontents in the online world. Vanellope gets caught up in a huge racing game called (plausibly enough) Slaughter Avenue as the pair seek to gather funds for an Ebay bid on the desired hardware.

There are other bits of plot, but nothing stops the onslaught of ramshackle lampoon. Many of those gags are top-notch. The personification of a search engine tries – with varying degrees of success – to finish your query before you do. Pop-up ads take the form of nagging hustlers.

A brilliant late sequence gets at the unrelenting bitchiness of social media commentary (remember, don’t read the comments). We can hardly blame a family film for having so little to do with the urges that generate so much of the internet’s damper traffic.

Sadly, a persistent kowtowing to corporate interests flattens the satire. More logos will fly at punters during the film than they are likely to encounter in the preceding commercials.

Creepiest of all is the extended sequence that, taking a turn up its own end, brings this Disney picture to that corner of the internet devoted to Disney – Star Wars characters now interact with animated favourites – and ventures the gentlest feminist deconstruction of the firm’s Princess line. Gloria Steinem need not beware. 

Opens November 30th