Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
PG, but my wife and I drastically disagree on how appropriate it is for kids. She was mortified by this movie. I've made my peace with how scary Disney movies actually get. The weird thing is that my son, who infamously gets scared at movies, was perfectly fine with this one. My daughter, who is desensitized to everything, was really scared. I don't know what's up with that. There is a scary final bad guy and some gross imagery, but that's really about it. Some ideas can be considered pretty heavy for kids. PG.
DIRECTORS: Phil Johnson and Rich Moore
I don't know, man. I keep having weird thoughts about Wreck-It Ralph in general. I mean, this is a film series that is meant to aim directly at me. It's a shameless tie to nostalgia, specifically my nostalgia for classic gaming. I don't love the idea of that and the first time I saw the first movie, I wasn't the biggest fan. I didn't hate it or anything, but it was only okay. (Honestly, I laughed more at the non-video game stuff than any of the video game stuff. "Oreo-oh-oh" still makes me giggle.) But I watched it a whole bunch of times and now unabashedly enjoy it. Like Ralph and the building, he managed to beat down my high standards until I can now watch te movie fairly easily without having to judge it. Maybe my kids and their obsession with watching movies on repeat have something to do with that. I don't care how many times they watch Trolls, I will never like it. (Don't worry. Henry is scared of that movie.)
But one thing about Ralph Breaks the Internet that rings false is that the nostalgia button is really important to the premise of Wreck-It Ralph. Because the alternative is even more superficial. When watching the first movie, it was hitting the nostalgia button really hard. At best, you went out and searched for your old favorite games and replayed those. It wasn't really a goal to get you to go out and buy the new Sonic the Hedgehog game (although that was an option). But when you look at the present Internet, you can't help but feel like all of this is to sell products. I know, it's not the same...until you get to the Oh My Disney! section of the movie. I'm not spoiling anything. It's in all of the trailers and it's been advertised as news for months now. I will say, it's the best part of the movie. It's fantastic. But Disney is already doing plenty to advertise its brand. Do I really need a movie that visits the many Disney properties and explaining how they are the best thing on the Internet? Probably not. So I'm back to my old hypocritical self and simultaneously loving and hating an element of a movie. I'm an old dog. I don't want to learn the new tricks. These scenes are joyful, but I definitely don't think that the Oh My Disney! website is the cornerstone of the Internet that the movie is really pushing for. Really, the movie of a whole is problematic. While I never want to attribute anything to The Emoji Movie, there is way too much crossover there. Sure, anything that Disney touches is probably going to be better than what The Emoji Movie gave us. But a children's animated commentary on the state of the Internet is what The Emoji Movie presents. We already know what Amazon and eBay are doing thanks to that movie. One thing I'd like to think (even though I know I'm lying to myself as I write this) is that Disney is going to present something new, even if its from another perspective. While it looks prettier and fits into story structure better, I don't know if Ralph ever really needed to go to the Internet. Actually, the more I'm thinking about it, the Internet as a framing device is only convenient, not mandatory. It just doesn't feel fresh.
On top of that, their use of websites is really confusing. eBay plays a pretty prominent role in the story, so it is actually eBay. Other actual websites are regularly represented and I suppose that's keeping in line with what is established with eBay. But then the filmmakers decided to make up amalgamations of websites. BuzzzTube? Were Buzzfeed and YouTube hesitant to lend their brands? I don't think so, because they are shown in the film. Maybe there were statutes and limitations to what they could do with those licenses? I know that one of my thoughts about the first Wreck-It Ralph is that the major accomplishment lies in getting the properties to all agree to appear in the movie. I am willing to bet that the same thing is happening in Ralph Breaks the Internet. But because of that, the tone keeps shifting every so slightly. There are moments when the movie is just making jokes about actual websites and then we have to lend our imaginations to a fictionalized version of the Internet. It's an odd choice and I don't think it necessarily adds to the bigger picture. These moments, these analyses, kind of make me question the necessity of Wreck-It Ralph at all. (I didn't loathe the movie. I'm just a fan of originality. ) If I had to call a spade a spade, Wreck-It Ralph is just using Toy Story's format. Toy Story was able to comment on children's toys through giving things that didn't have sentience self-awareness. What is a video game but just a glorified toy? (The history of video games is intimately tied to the toy industry.) So to continue analyzing the movie, I have to make pretty large concessions and just watch it as a film.
As a film, it's fine. But it does ask me to ignore some elements from the previous film. MAJOR SPOILERS: Vanelope kind of sucks in this one. Okay, I know that I'm being harsh to a fictionalized digital little girl. But the first movie was about how Ralph shouldn't "go Turbo." Going Turbo refers to leaving one's game to live his or her own life. The entire lesson is that people should find value in the world around them (kind of. I'm really shortening this idea down to move on with the message about the second film). What we do has value and we sometimes need to be reminded of that. Sometimes we need to remind others. But running away from your problems isn't the right way to go about it. Um...Ralph Wrecks the Internet kind of forgot about that because I'm pretty sure that Vanelope goes Turbo. I was waiting for them to use the vernacular, but they never said, "Going Turbo." She's leaving her game for another game. I will give Ralph Breaks the Internet some credit though. The message that this one gives is also pretty valid, if not conflicting with the first movie. I love the message that Ralph doesn't own Vanelope. That is something that a lot of movies won't touch. We get the story about people leaving and that's completely fine. But it is nice to say that friends should respect each others' boundaries. That's pretty great. But then I'm going to backpedal again. It's weird that Vanelope is so enamored with Grand Theft Auto / Slaughter Race. Vanelope is chasing a dream that doesn't really hold a lot of weight. It's shiny and new and Vanelope has a responsibility. It seems like Slaughter Race is a fairly terrible place. Ralph has a right to look out for his friend. What happens when Vanelope is tired of the sheer misery that Slaughter Race offers. I know that the filmmakers tried to cop out of that element. They show the characters having fun and playing basketball when they aren't murdering folks with their cars. But wanting the best for a friend is what a friend is supposed to do. This all seems like nuance garbage, but it is kind of important. Ralph shouldn't be insecure and try to own Vanelope. They knocked that message out of the park. But ensuring that your friend is safe and commenting when they are making a bad choice is also important. The movie is cake-and-eating-it-too. They made Slaughter Race an okay place, which is a bit of a scam. It's all for the joke.
I'm an old man. I don't really adore memes. I felt real old at times in this movie. I had a good time with it, but it is really flawed compared to a lot of the things that Disney puts out. I have high expectations. I'm glad to go with my kids and I probably could watch it again. But it is a bit of a mess, especially considering that this is the same studio that made Zootopia.
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