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'Ralph Breaks the Internet': An imaginative trip into cyberspace

Stanley Widianto

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sat, November 24, 2018  /  08:55 am

Brimming with humor for almost two hours, Ralph Breaks the Internet manages to eke out something that makes us love the characters the same way we did six years ago.

Wreck-It-Ralph, a beloved 2012 Walt Disney Pictures animated film, introduced Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) as an arcade game villain who later realized he was actually not such a bad guy. His transformation was not earned through penance, but through a genuinely innate sense to care for others, such as Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), his best friend, or his neighbors at Litwak’s Arcade. 

Ralph Breaks the Internet, the movie’s sequel, exposes the limits to Ralph’s personality. 

He can be clingy and insecure, but the movie does not diminish his appetite for nurturing. This alone bumps Ralph Breaks the Internet to a league of neat movie sequels — like Toy Story 2 before it but, of course, it does not stop there.

Ralph Breaks the Internet is a whole lot of fun. It finds the populace of Litwak’s Arcade welcoming a “game” that is not a new racing game, as Vanellope forlornly notes. It’s the internet! At once a comment on an economic malaise engulfing Litwak’s Arcade (a sign reads ‘NOW WITH WIFI’), the internet breaks into the movie as a remedy to a tedium that Ralph is very comfortable with.

He does not want to do anything except work at the arcade at sunrise and go for root beer at the bar Tapper’s with his best friend Vanellope at sunset. But then Sugar Rush, the video game where Vanellope comes from, runs into issues that leads Litwak, the arcade owner, to unplug it, because he wants to sell it for parts. This brings our huggable guy and our glitchy girl to the internet.

The internet in this animated sequel is a well-crafted, limitless utopia. 

There is the “darknet”, where viruses are made. There are all these brands — Google, Facebook and Pinterest. References to all the mundane stuff we do every day online are welcome. The nagging feeling that this may as well function as product placement for the brands is only minor.

Vanellope and Ralph’s adventure to secure a new steering wheel for a Sugar Rush machine is fun and imaginative. All the normal stuff we do in real life is trivialized into, well, animation. Think the Pixar movie Inside Out. They run into Spamey (Bill Hader), a guy who offers them a score so that they can pay off their debt of US$27,001. A pop-up blocker, in the shape of a muscular dude, manhandles Spamey.

Directed by Wreck-It-Ralph alumni Rich Moore and Phil Johnston, Ralph Breaks the Internet does not take itself too seriously, which leaves us with an unsentimental sweetness that anchors Vanellope and Ralph’s friendship.

The only problem with the film is that it winks too many times at the internet, sometimes glorifying the things we wish to be true but are not. There is a scene where Ralph makes money by making viral videos for a service called Buzzztube, led by the cheekily named Yesss (Taraji P. Henson). How exactly does he earn that human money that easy?

In this internet utopia, Vanellope’s increasing discomfort at the thought of playing Sugar Rush over and over again is matched by her newfound freedom, particularly in the game Slaughter Race, a treacherous land of misfits and great drivers — a good fit for her. There she befriends a wise, tough driver named Shank (Gal Gadot). She is left to nurse her dreams, and the film punctuates it by giving her a song, Disney princess style.

Speaking of Disney princesses, everyone’s here: Moana, Snow White, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Ariel and more. Also present are R2-D2, C-3PO and Eeyore. Indeed, Ralph Breaks the Internet treats well-known characters like its own. The princesses wear comfortable clothes and comment on the problematic ways in which we forget about their films.

This brings me back to Ralph. Throughout the film, you realize that Ralph’s unseemly ways are not an antithesis to his empathy. They are a feature, not a bug. All of this contributes to the ending, where the movie negotiates a way for Ralph’s comfort and Vanellope’s discomfort to coexist at the arcade.


Ralph Breaks the Internet

(112 minutes; Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios)
Directors: Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Gal Gadot, Alan Tudyk, Taraji P. Henson

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