For all its straight to video bargain bin sequels, Disney (outside of the Pixar subsidary) have not released a theatrical follow-up since the Rescuers Down Under in 1990. This is an important film, with second instalments for Frozen, Zootopia and god knows what else planned for the House of Mouse in the coming years. Which is why it’s so frustrating that it’s not an especially good one, failing to build on the excellence of its predecessor in a number of significant ways.
“this is the meh emoji in film form”
Whilst the animation is excellent and features an innovative visual portrayal of the internet (this is Disney after all), and the voice work is stellar, from oldcomers and new hands alike (credit to Taraji P. Henson and Gal Gadot), this is a film that fails to realise itself fully, ultimately feeling like less than the sum of its parts. The warning signs are there from the beginning – Ralph’s absence from Fix-It-Felix, treated like the end of the world in the first film, is no big deal, and fan favourites Felix and Calhoun are immediately side lined, despite the obvious comedic potential of their adoption of fifteen children. And so, in an era where we have seen the best cinematic portrayal of the digital world (Searching) and the worst (The Emoji Movie) we journey to the internet once again (*read feature length Disney commercial with outdated jokes*) for a movie more suited to the protagonist of the latter – this is the meh emoji in film form.
So why doesn’t this movie work? Firstly, it ignores much of the character development of the first film, making Ralph about ten times more moronic and insecure than before – perhaps rendering him a touch unlikable. Secondly, its structure is utterly bizarre, wrapping up its main plot three quarters of the way through and switching to its subplot for an uninteresting, unsubtle and unearned final act, turning the film from a mostly enjoyable ninety-minute romp to a bloated and unfocused two-hour slog.
“this is the Mumsnet version of the internet lacking all the bite and wit that made something like The Lego Movie such a hit for children and adults alike”
But the biggest problem of all is that this is a film that has absolutely no idea what the internet is and nothing of interest to say about it, with a reference to the ‘Chewbacca’s Mum’ meme emblematic of just how out of touch it is. There are no references to popular YouTubers, Reddit threads or online streaming – this is the Mumsnet version of the internet lacking all the bite and wit that made something like The Lego Movie such a hit for children and adults alike. There is something of a message here (bad comments hurt people), but it’s thinly developed and wholly uninspired, never being given the time to standout in a crowded but surprisingly empty movie. Ralph 2 is no Cars 2, but it’s no Toy Story sequel either, throwing much of what made Wreck It Ralph so special away in favour of the best memes of 2016 and paid adverts from eBay, Twitter, Amazon and others – an unmemorable dud with no real reason to exist, other than to print more money for the richest studio in the world.
There are occasional enjoyable moments here, with Ralph and Vanellope’s bond still mostly charming and providing the rare emotional beat that actually connects. Then there are the cameos – with everyone from Baby Groot to Eeyore popping in for a quick chuckle. The most highly prominent of these is the Princesses, and I’m happy to report they were genuinely excellent – providing a humour and self-awareness mostly absent from the rest of the picture. Their inclusion in the third act, however, feels like a misstep, as they are allowed to save the day at the expense of the new supporting characters, who are never quite given the time to fulfil their potential. Ultimately, the fact the Princesses steal this movie is a damning indictment of Ralph Breaks the Internet – with none of the most memorable moments or jokes actually having anything to do with Ralph or the Internet. By the end of this self-promotional cash-grab, anyone over the age of twelve will be relieved to log-off from this forgettable affair, with the memory of it being wiped as efficiently as an automatic control-alt-delete.