The streak, unfortunately, is over.
For roughly a decade, I gave movies made by Disney’s animation studio very high marks, usually a 4/5 or higher, and regularly included them in my top 10 lists at the end of the year. However, “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” which certainly isn’t bad per se, has ended that consistency, as it’s simply mediocre.
More on that in a moment, but let’s look into what this sequel is all about. Unlike this summer’s “Incredibles 2,” which picked up immediately after the first, “Ralph breaks the Internet” is set in the present time and acknowledges the six years that have passed since the original picture, released in 2012.
Life’s all good for Ralph (John C. Reilly) at the start. While he’s the villain in his game, he’s well appreciated and he and the other game characters from Fix-It Felix now treat what they do as sort of an acting gig, rather than treating Ralph and Felix as antagonist and protagonist. When not in the game, Ralph hangs out with his good friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), who’s also found a comfortable life in her racing video game.
A problem arises, though, when Vanellope’s game breaks down. Just around the same time, the arcade they’re at gets WiFi. As a result, both Ralph and Vanellope go online to buy the needed part to repair Vanellope’s game and have everything settle back down.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is simply not as tightly written or plotted as its 2012 predecessor. There’s almost a lack of urgency when it comes to getting the new part and the movie’s second act is a meandering wade through internet references that will probably be dated in a few years’ time.
One of the film’s concepts that eventually leads to a rift happening between the two lead characters is another problem. While the message the film is trying to get across is clear and certainly not a bad one, it also creates an issue in how it relates to the messages of the first film and somewhat negates what happened in the original 2012 animated feature.
Another disappointing element of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is that, despite being nearly two hours long, it doesn’t do the most with some of the ideas it puts on the screen. For example, there’s a set up for a sub plot with the characters Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch) from the last film, but it’s not shown at all. Another example is Ralph reading some negative comments about himself online, which, again, doesn’t really go anywhere.
That’s not to say none of it works. From time to time, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is great. An immediate example is a sequence featuring all of the Disney princesses in 3D computer animation. It’s a fantastic moment and thankfully, the trailers didn’t spoil all of it. There are several sequences like this, where the film’s quality spikes, whether it be a well-crafted character moment or a clever gag. However, in between these, the film remains flat.
The two lead characters are, for the most part, still as charming as they were in the original, which helps give the picture a boost. Thanks to both the writing and especially the wonderful voice acting, the characters are brimming with personality that does help keep the audience invested.
Again, because this bothered me so much, though, I have to mention my immense disappointment over the lack of the lack of screen time for Felix and Calhoun. Instead, there are some new characters.
The first one introduced is Shank, a driver from another racing game voiced by Gal Gadot. Shank is a pretty good character, adding another racing type to match up with Vanellope, both in skill and personality. She’s a fine addition.
However, the other new major character introduced, named Yesss (Taraji Henson), is a total miss. She is basically if trending topics on Twitter were smashed with Buzzfeed and YouTube to create a character, and she is completely forgettable.
Earning more points for “Ralph” is the animation. Some might say that Disney films should obviously have this quality of animation, but it still deserves praise. For all the moving parts, and an expansive, seemingly limitless world, the animators are worthy of a lot of credit.
Overall, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has a lot of funny moments, the voice acting is on point, the animation is top tier and it has its heart in the right place when it comes to the message.
However, the story, character arcs and some of the internet-related gags just don’t work very well. As a result, it doesn’t reach some of the heights of other animated sequels such as “Shrek 2,” “Kung Fu Panda 2” or “Toy Story 2.” Relatively speaking, when it comes to animated pictures, it’s fairly middle of the road. 3 out of 5.