Wreck-it Ralph (John C. Reilly) is enjoying his new life with his best friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). By day he’s the villain in a coin-operated arcade game but by night he can relax with his familiar routine. Venolope, however, wants more; a sense of danger. Opportunity knocks when her arcade machine breaks and the pair must venture into the internet to obtain a new part from EBay. But their net naivete threatens their safety and their friendship.
Ralph Breaks The Internet is a playful satire of the internet. The characters encounter viruses, spammers and pop up ads. They get in over their heads financially and become disheartened by comments. One can’t help but recall The Emoji Movie and appreciate how these ideas weren’t inherently bad. Ralph Breaks the internet portrays a mixed view of internet culture. It’s undeniably rose-tinted in its portrayal of E-commerce but doesn’t shy away from the hurtful effects of comments or the alienating effect of the internet’s size. It’s easy to get in over your head financially but seemingly just as easy to make your fortune.
The premise facilitates a great deal of product placement. The sprawling city of the internet is studded with logos for Google, YouTube, Amazon and Ebay. It’s fairly distracting, especially as it’s only Ebay that is utilized in the film’s story. Otherwise transparent facsimiles are used for the search engine and video sharing site, which makes the cynical nature of their logo placement in the background of scenes all the more apparent.
It’s not only the internet that gets satirized though. As Vanellope finds herself in Disney’s internet space she runs into the other Disney princesses. These may be the film’s best scenes as they discuss and ridicule the tropes that have confined every princess since 1937. Particularly fun is their advice to Vanellope to discover her heart’s true desire by finding a meaningful body of water and singing to it. The princesses return in the film’s climax in another fun scene that pokes fun at the princess dynamic whilst also celebrating the characters.
At the film’s heart is a wonderful message about friendship. Beyond the trite concept of friendship solving everything, the film suggests that friendships change constantly and the best ones aren’t defined by routine and familiarity but by flexibility. Ralph is a needy friend who just wants Vanelope to stay the same because it suits him, regardless of her happiness. As the film contrives to render their dynamic literally in this fantastic space, cleverly equating insecurities to online vulnerability, the message is made beautifully literal in a way that is unique to its medium.
Ralph Breaks The Internet has some trappings that are a little off putting, but is undeniably a sweet tale and an important lesson for children about how to be a good friend.