Ralph Breaks the Internet

 

            The idea of bringing to life video game characters is now nothing new.  Knowing that, the Disney folks update the scenario:  video game characters find their way to the Internet.  And break it down with a virus.  And then somehow have to find their way back to their quaint little arcade.

            Wreck-It Ralph (the voice of John C. Reilly) is in his video game every day, but when the neighborhood arcade closes, he gets to spend time with an unlikely friend, Vanellope (Sara Silverman), a cutesy little wide-eyed girl in a race car game.  One leisurely evening, she admits that she's kinda tired of the same old routine.  Ralph thinks so much of his friend that he tries to enter her game and change a race track, just to make it interesting for Vanellope.  She loves it, but her insisting on controlling her car causes the human who thinks she's driving it to turn the wheel too hard, causing it to break. Whoops.  Old game, expensive part, costs more to fix it than it's worth. (Sound familiar?)  The arcade owner decides it's time to sell the thing for parts and scrap it.

            Ralph feels guilty about his part in the breakdown of Vanellope's game, and besides, she's starting to disappear, because soon there will no longer be any use for her.  So Ralph suggests to Vanellope that they jump on the new outlet, called Wifi, and see if they can find that missing part and rescue the situation.  Vanellope's excited about the idea; she's wired for adventure, anyway.  And off we go to Disney's unique version of what's inside the Internet:  a giant city, where tall buildings are named Facebook and Snapchat and Ebay.  And the people who are currently on the Internet are each represented by little miniature figures with their screen names attached to them.  It's a fun idea, and it works.

            It's also fun to see the Disney princesses in one room, treating Vanellope like a different kind of princess.  They assure her that if she looks at water and starts singing, the background music will start up for her.  They also are tired of the scenario of needing to be saved by a big, strong man, so soon the tables are turned and our big, strong man, Ralph, soon needs saving by Vanellope.  But Disney has more fun with this:  we see Eeyore, and Star Wars characters, like C3PO and the Storm Troopers.  Sometimes the pop culture references are flying by so fast it's hard to keep up.  But Ralph never gives up trying to help his friend Vanellope, who, to her surprise, discovers another race game that she'd really rather be in.  And the star of that game, Shank, is none other than the voice of Gal Gadot, of “Wonder Woman” fame.

            But it wouldn't be Disney without a moral to the story.  It seems that Ralph is trying so hard to be his friend's best friend that he's become needy and clingy and possessive.  He doesn't realize that he's emotionally smothering Vanellope.  So he finally has to learn to let her pursue her dreams, even if that means she's apart from him.  They can still be friends.  (Fill in your own social application here.)

            Though animated characters with human voices are always a step removed from viewer identification, still, it doesn't take long for us to care about these characters.  “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is charming and funny and very creative.  And it speaks to the inner child of any age.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association