Having spent the last six years following the same routine with her best pal Ralph (John C Reilly), spirited video game character Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) has grown tired of her predictable life. While Ralph is perfectly content watching every sunrise, working all day and downing root beers each night, Vanellope longs for more.
It’s an intriguing concept – an arcade creation having an existential crisis – and when Vanellope’s game Sugar Rush gets unplugged and she’s found without a home or purpose, it looks as if that’ll be the story’s driver. To some extent it is, but when she and Ralph delve into the World Wide Web to retrieve a part that could save her game, Ralph Breaks The Internet becomes more of a MacGuffin-led adventure.
Introducing Wi-Fi proves an ingenious way of expanding Wreck-It Ralph’s small-scale world and the detail is stunning. Well-known websites such as IMDb and Pinterest are visualised as high-tech skyscrapers; eBay consists of real auctions and Twitter sees literal blue birds squeak out memes. Then there are the worlds within it; the grimy alley-looking Dark Net and online racing game Slaughter Race – which catches Vanellope’s eye, causing her to question whether she even wants to save Sugar Rush – being particular highlights.
Along the way, it touches on interesting topics such as online fame and cyberbullying but abandons them in favour of knowing or meta gags – like when Ralph gets distracted by pop-up people selling work-out tricks or Vanellope stumbles across a plethora of Disney Princesses in the film’s standout scene – and action sequences.
Where other Disney films have been bold enough to tackle subjects like grief, racism or depression, Ralph Breaks The Internet keeps things simple by examining evolving friendships. It’s super sweet seeing both Vanellope and Ralph come to terms with that fact as they realise their own dreams separately from one another, but it’s unlikely to have any lasting emotional effect. In a sense, Ralph Breaks The Internet is like most things online these days; it’s amusing while you’re engaged with it but as soon as your mind is elsewhere, there’s not all that much about it to hold on to.