I was never really much of a gamer growing up. Believe it or not, I’ve only ever properly played FIFA and DOTA 2. Well, the occasional Left 4 Dead too, but I sucked at it and used up all my friends’ health packs before dying anyway. So I wasn’t as hyped for the first Wreck-It Ralph as many of you probably were. I mean I was hyped, as I usually am walking into animated films coming out of The House of Mouse, but I wasn’t HYPED — as in I wasn’t gonna get an erection if Sonic the Hedgehog showed up and high fived Super Mario.
That said, I walked out of Wreck it Ralph slightly teary-eyed and very much liking its two central characters: Ralph, the bad guy from a game called ‘Fix-it Felix Jr’ who’s tired of being a bad guy and underappreciated, and Venelope Von Schweetz, a glitchy character from the racing game, ‘Sugar Rush.’
So, I was eager to watch Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Jesus, what a mouthful. From this point on, I’m just gonna call it Wreck it Ralph 2), and once again go on an adventure with these two lovable goofballs. I was also eager because the Disney Princesses joke in one of the teasers — which admittedly should’ve been kept secret — had me in tears laughing.
“Now for the million dollar question. Do people assume all your problems got solved because a big strong man showed up?”
“Yes! What is up with that?”
“SHE IS A PRINCESS!”
Would Disney satirize and poke fun at their many many other iconic characters? I certainly hoped so. Of course, I didn’t expect this to be The Lego Batman Movie (and didn’t want it to be) but if there was gonna be more of where that Disney Princess joke came from, then I knew I was at worst, going to have a helluva good time. I had also read that Star Wars characters would be popping up here and there in the movie and YOU KNOW that got my man panties wet.
This movie is pretty fun. Riding the line between “hey, I’m enjoying the heck out of this” and “Okay, now I’m starting to get bored.” But the problems with the movie don’t lie with its premise or its themes, which are great. When Venelope’s vintage game breaks down (in the real world) and the cost is too much to bear by the Arcade owner, she’s forced to find a new virtual home. So her buddy Ralph comes up with a plan: Travel to the internet and look for the mythical land that sells everything. eBoy! (That’s what Ralph — who’s kinda like a grandpa stuck in a young dude’s body — repeatedly calls eBay).
Wreck-It Ralph 2 explores even deeper the friendship of Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Venelope (Sarah Silverman) and their very different personalities. Ralph is a laid back dude that’s content and happy with his life. He enjoys following the same routine on a daily with his one and only true friend. He loves being in the same game he’s been in all his life and once the lights of the arcade go out, he likes having a mug of icy cold root beer at a local bar. Rinse and repeat. In other words, he’s a 9-5 guy.
Venelope, on the other hand, wants more. She wants to travel, explore the world and pursue her passion. She likes living life on the edge and not knowing what lies ahead. When she stumbles into the awesomely dangerous world of ‘Slaughter Race’, her soul radiates and beams. It’s as if the dusty roads, fast cars and engine roars call to her like The Force did Rey. She begins to wonder if she really wants to go back home when her heart lies right here, in this apocalyptic death race.
What I love about the film is that it watches these two characters with non-judgemental eyes. Directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Pamela Ribon) don’t say Ralph’s way of approaching life is wrong or that everybody should aspire to be Venelope. The film tells us that it’s okay to be a content and comfortable 9-5 person. It’s also okay to be adventurous and ambitious. What’s important is that you find the path that’s truest to yourself and don’t mould yourself to fit other people’s narrative.
And that’s what Venelope must learn. That she shouldn’t always live life for others (even if that person is her bestest friend in the whole wide virtual world). That she shouldn’t have to feel guilty for wanting to do more. Tough guy Ralph is insecure and he’s letting his clingy-ness (it’s a neat little twist, considering the ‘women are clingy’ stereotype) get in the way of his friendship. He must understand that it’s okay to let go. I love the way the film closed.
Wreck-It Ralph 2 is also laugh till you drop funny. The trailer may have ruined the best joke in the movie, but there are plenty more, including a brilliant one about Princess Merida from Brave, that are smart and caught me completely off guard several times. There are also jokes about pop up ads, quips about viral content and bits revolving an internet search engine dude who doesn’t let you finish your sentences. Almost every single one of them lands (I didn’t care for the gags about the viruses). Even the two post-credits sequences are smart and got big laughs from the crowd.
Where the film fumbles, though, is the big climactic action sequence that is a drab and a drag. The idea is an interesting one. It shows how not addressing your insecurities and facing it head on will only cause it to multiply and grow and destroy everything around you like a parasitic virus. The problem is, it might be a little too predictable for adult viewers (which I recognise isn’t the film’s primary demographic) and it goes on for a little too long.
In fact, the whole movie can be a tiny bit simplistic for adult viewers. That’s probably why it didn’t really move me as much as the first movie did. All throughout, I found myself agreeing with its logic, but wasn’t sucked into it emotionally. It focuses more on broad emotional beats and lacks the degree of nuance and subtlety that can be found in many Disney-Pixar co-productions (Wreck-It Ralph 2 is a non-Pixar Disney animated film). The kind that would make even the smartest of adults think. More importantly, the kind that would make even the coldest of adults shed a tear. I’m talking about the ‘importance of sadness’ reveal in Inside Out, which was mind-blowing to watch, even as a 22-year-old.
That said, Wreck-It Ralph 2 is still a fun time at the cinemas, shortcoming and all. It is beautifully animated, visually rich, has memorable characters — including Shank, the badass chick in ‘Slaughter Race’ voiced by Gal Gadot — important themes and incredible jokes. It may not be in the same league as Disney/Disney-Pixar’s best, but hey, how many movies are?
Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
It focuses more on broad emotional beats and lacks the degree of nuance and subtlety that can be found in many Disney-Pixar co-productions. That said, Wreck-It Ralph 2 is still a fun time at the cinemas, shortcoming and all.