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With: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O'Neill, Sean Giambrone, Flula Borg, Timothy Simons, Ali Wong, Hamish Blake, GloZell Green (voices)
Written by: Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon, based on a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Jim Reardon, Pamela Ribon, Josie Trinidad
Directed by: Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
MPAA Rating: PG for some action and rude humor
Running Time: 112
Date: 11/21/2018

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cyberspace Cadets

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Disney's sequel to the delightful Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) is quite a bit weirder, and possibly even disturbing in parts, but some clever ideas and the strong friendship between Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) and Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) — and our love for them — carry things through. In the six years between movies, Ralph and Vanellope have been hanging out together every night, doing pretty much the same thing, but Vanellope longs for something new. Ralph builds her a new track in Sugar Rush, but it causes a customer to break the game's plastic steering wheel. So when the arcade gets Wifi, Ralph and Vanellope enter the crazy world of the Internet to buy a new wheel (from eBay) and prevent her game from being scrapped.

One of the ways they can raise money is to steal a car from an online racing game called Slaughter Race. It's a very dangerous place, where cars can race off-track and possibly be devoured by sewer sharks, but Vanellope falls instantly in love with it, and is drawn to the game's super-cool heroine, Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot). So they attempt to raise money another way, by Ralph making viral videos. But after visiting the Disney princesses, Vanellope isn't so sure she wants to go back to the same old Sugar Rush. But she also isn't sure how to break the news to Ralph.

There's a lot going on in Ralph Breaks the Internet, with visual representations of several major Internet companies; many viewers will smell "product placement" all over the place. The Disney references come quickly, presumably with the knowledge that fans will indulge in several viewings to try to spot them all. But the princesses, gathered together (voiced by the original talents) and lounging between online games of "which Disney princess are you?," is a fine centerpiece. It's a clever, quick deconstruction of the entire "princess" phenomenon, and even includes a kind of superhero-team sequence as they help to save the day.

But super-creepy characters known as "Gort" and "Double Dan" are, to quote a colleague, "made of nightmares." Then a finale involving multiple Ralph "clones" — the result of an Internet virus gone haywire — is straight out of a Clive Barker story, more dead-on horror than family movie. These things shook my 12 year-old to the core. However, I admire it when Disney subverts its old "safe, vanilla" identity and tries to do something bonkers; it's the weirdest Disney animated feature since The Emperor's New Groove (2000), and I embrace it. So, while Ralph Breaks the Internet isn't as incredible as Incredibles 2, it's at least a movie you won't soon forget.

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