Ready Player On-Line (Ralph Breaks the Internet review)

Ready Player One has competition! It now may not be 2018’s film with the most Pop-Culture references, as Wreck It Ralph takes a trip through the Internet. Following on from 2012 Disney animation, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a fun and colourful sequel through contemporary technology, but one that will ultimately be lost by time.

Like the first one, the film is set in a game arcade and follows two characters, Wreck-It Ralph (a giant but kind man who plays the villain in the game ‘Fix-It Felix Jr.) and Vanellope (a racer in the game ‘Sugar Rush’). John C Reilly plays Ralph and Sarah Silverman plays Vanellope, and it must be said that both of them are clearly having a lot of fun and their voice acting is great. After Vanellope’s game breaks, the two of them decide to travel to the Internet via the Wi-Fi cable to try and buy a replacement part for the game on eBay. Immediately, I started feeling uncomfortable hearing eBay in a Disney film, but it didn’t remotely stop there. Instagram, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, TedTalks, the list goes on. Seeing huge social media brands in a children’s film felt like an uncomfortable promotion of dangerous platforms, but even more worrying were some of the characters actions.

To advance the plot, Ralph and Vanellope decide to click on a random pop-up ad, advertising a ‘get rich quick scheme’. This is clearly a terrible idea to do in real life, yet that message was never relayed to the audience. Additionally, Ralph must later descend to the dark-web to buy and release a virus in order to corrupt an online game. This felt incredibly problematic and could produce some horrific copycat behaviour in young kids.

Thankfully, however, the film does redeem itself with some funny contemporary humour and beautiful design. The film’s depiction of the Internet is a vast city of stuff (visually very similar to Thor Ragnarok’s planet Sakaar) and it’s funny (though worrying) to see the internet users scurrying around from site to site, being led by cookies and trying to deal with Google’s autofill feature. The film also had one of the funniest puns of this year; a woman wanting to buy Ballet shoes was sent to an online store called Desmond’s Tutu. Bravo.

The film also references a lot of specific property, mostly from Disney themselves. A whole section of the film is dedicated to Vanellope’s travels through the website, where we see all manner of Disney characters old and new, along with their new intellectual property, from Marvel’s Groot to the Star Wars Stormtroopers. Most enjoyable, however, were the Disney Princesses, who go through what it means to be a Princess with a hilarious checklist. What makes this even more special is that other than a few exceptions, the Princesses are all voiced by their original voice actors, from Paige O’Hara as Belle to Idina Menzel as Elsa.

Unfortunately, with all its contemporary comedy, it didn’t quite feel like a Disney film. What has made Disney so popular for so long is their timeless feel. Their films are based more on themes and ideas than specific time periods; ideas of childhood, growing up, losing family, doing what you love, being scared of monsters in the closet.

This film, however, is very much a contemporary trip through the internet, with mentions of Flossing, Fortnight, Meme Culture and Rick Rolling, and the entire plot revolving around Ralph going ‘viral’. Though they were funny and well handled, these jokes will not age well, and instead might make this film become very dated very quickly. Admittedly, there are also themes of friendship and being true to yourself, but ultimately these are lost in the final act when the film becomes only about the references.

Overall, the film is a fun trip through the internet that sports some beautiful imagery and a great retro soundtrack from Henry Jackman. While the film will date far quicker than Disney’s other classic films, it is a funny and interesting take on Internet culture, but one that doesn’t quite acknowledge the dangerous side of the web.

8 Stars

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