In a world so driven by technology, it no longer comes as any surprise for us to see media that reflects our screen-centric society. With the success of shows like Black Mirror and films like Searching and Unfriended, it was clear that it wasn’t going to be long before some of these themes began to seep into animation and children’s’ films.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is Disney’s attempt to bring a tech-centered animated film to the big screen. Previously, Sony’s The Emoji Movie had attempted to cash in on the trend and while box office receipts were relatively high, the film’s critical acclaim was less than ideal. With this new Ralph film, directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston had the difficult job of not only creating a film that depicted the Internet in a Disney-approved yet realistic way but also continues to develop the characters from the previous film in a meaningful manner. Despite all these odds stacked against it, not only does Ralph Breaks The Internet proves to be successful, it proves to be one of the most inventive animated films in recent memory.
One of the first and foremost commendable parts of this film is its visual ingenuity. The animation is colorful and bubbly but feels like a natural part of the tone and style of the film. Additionally, one of the best parts of this movie is how immersive it feels. When our protagonists reach the Internet, it feels like a fully fleshed-out world with several working parts. Some of that effect is thanks to the clever script, but a lot of it is also due to the top-notch animation that makes the Internet feel like a real place. For example, there isn’t one uniform type of animation throughout – the blocky animation style of the Internet users is totally different from the modern video game characters of Slaughter Race who look totally different from the arcade characters. It’s small details like that that make this movie feel so real despite its completely outlandish concept.
Much of the ingenuity of the film is also a product of the excellent writing and direction on display. The movie provides an extremely clever depiction of the Internet by showing things on a visual level. All of the facets of the internet are shown in some sort of visual ways, such as viruses, pop-ups, and reminder emails as characters, websites as buildings, etc. The movie also isn’t afraid to delve into meta-humor to poke some fun at its own studio’s presence on the Internet. The “princess sequence” in this film gives the movie a chance to make fun of Disney’s own brand presence and provide some fun with well-known characters. That said, the film doesn’t rely solely on up-to-date references, easter eggs, and brand names to paint its picture of the modern-day Internet. While buildings marked YouTube and Google help keep this film relevant, the actual commentary on the Internet helps solidify the realism. Ralph Breaks The Internet often provides insightful and comedic commentary on 21st century Internet culture, touching on things such as Internet stardom, online shopping, binge gaming, and yes- even the comments section. At the end of the day, there are some things that are far too dark on the Internet for this family-friendly movie to get into. That said, Ralph Breaks The Internet is able to give a mostly complete picture of the modern-day Internet, even referencing some of its more obscure and strange parts. Combining real social commentary with visual storytelling, this movie turns the Internet into a real place that has the power to do good and bad.
While the film’s depiction of the Internet is easily its highlight, Ralph Breaks The Internet also continues to develop its characters and relationships from the first film. The movie particularly focuses on Ralph’s (John C. Reilly) journey of friendship with Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), bravely tackling something that I believe few other animated films would have the gumption to – the ability to let someone go. As Vanellope’s dreams and ambitions begin to call her out of the arcade, Ralph must deal with his own internal turmoil as he goes through the difficult process of learning to let go of someone he cares for. It’s a rather difficult theme to work within an otherwise light-hearted film, but the writers of the movie present it in a delicate, bittersweet, yet deeply endearing manner. It’s a wonderful and refreshing message to put into the film and helps these characters really come to life and make the plot more emotionally engaging.
All in all, Ralph Breaks The Internet is a clever and colorful film that depicts the Internet in an inventive way but doesn’t let its major concept come in the way of its heartfelt depiction of characters and relationships.