It’s hard not to be cynical about sequels, because more often than not, they’re just not necessary. The reason stories have endings is because it’s just that: they ended. The story is over and the characters journeys have been completed. Of course, this doesn’t stop studios from wanting to make some extra cash off of a familiar name, but it’s not cynical all the way down. Sure, the only reason the sequel gets greenlit is because producers see some financial incentive in it, but the team actually making the film may have their hearts and minds in the right place. 
In Ralph Breaks the Internet, video game character Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) are living a life of fun and luxury at Litwak’s Arcade. Due to Ralph being a bit too good of a friend, he ends up breaking Vanellope’s game, putting her and the other characters in peril of being “gameless”. So, it’s off to the internet, where Ralph and Vanellope search for a part to fix her game, the adventure testing their friendship along the way. 
Wreck-It Ralph is one of my favorite animated films of the decade and that’s because it had a solid, heartfelt story, while also being propped up by the video game aestehtic. I’ve been playing video games since I was a child, so the plethora of references and characters made it that much more fun. It helped that it was also a solid film, so when it was revealed Ralph would be surfing the web this time around, I was afraid the video game elements would be lost. Luckily, they’re all still intact, especially since a large portion in the middle takes place in an online racing game. With that, you still get all of the references you expect, and even unexpected ones, but the filmmakers never double down too much on what made the first one work. They show restraint when they need to and for the most part, all of the meta jokes are either confined to the background or serve the story in the some way. 
The way the internet is explored here is just as crazily creative as the video game worlds last time. You’ll see a lot of real life sites you’ll recognize, and some fake ones, but again, they’re necessary and not too obtrusive. A big part of the marketing was Vanellope going to the Oh My Disney website, where she runs into Stormtroopers and the whole cast of Disney princesses. I thought this would be the worst part, but again, it serves the story in a good way and the joke they paid off with the princesses honestly made me okay with it all. A lot of the meta humor was a bit too obvious and reliant on references, but I was pleased by Disney’s restraint. They may love to fawn over themselves while further enslaving the minds of America’s youth, but they seem to want to tell a decent story still. 
It was great returning to these characters again, with Reilly and Silverman easily slipping back into their roles. It’s six years since the first film and their relationship has grown, but it feels like you haven’t missed much. That ends up being important to the story, as Vanellope gets tired of her old life and wants to go here separate ways from Ralph. It’s a solid father-daughter analogue that mirrors the flying of the coop, and the parent taking whatever desperate means they can to keep that old relationship going. It did make me like Ralph a little less, although I knew what they were going for overall. Maybe I also liked him a bit less since they seemed to really dumb down his character here, but the way it wrapped up was nice. Also, it’s impossible not to love the adorable innocence that Reilly plays Ralph with, and the chemistry he has with Silverman is still the highlight of the film. 
The animation is just as gorgeous this time around, with even more care put into the even the most minute details, such as threads hanging off Ralph’s torn sleeves. It has been six years since the last film, and animation is only improving every day, but it’s truly a beautiful film to behold that feels alive, even if the aesthetic is totally cartoony. I felt it didn’t hit as hard into the story department, though, especially during the middle portion, where it dragged significantly. When we weren’t following Ralph and Vanellope in the first film, we were following some other character, but here, Ralph and Vanellope spend quite a bit of time apart. Since that chemistry isn’t there, the events the characters go through don’t feel as fun or entertaining, even if they are more emotionally resonant. The last act is stellar, though, getting appreciably weird (relative to Disney) and more creative and nuanced than I was expecting. 
Ralph Breaks the Internecould have very well been a case of diminishing returns, but director Phil Johnston and Rich Moore expanded on the original’s story and world in a very satisfying way. The internet world is just as creative as the arcade one, the references and fan service aren’t too intrusive, and the heart and soul is still there, or arguably even bigger this time around. It’s a solid companion piece to the original film, but I think it’s best we put these characters to rest. With how it ended, their story has been told. 


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