Self-aware, cameo-filled and at its core a sweet story about friendship, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a fantastic sequel to 2012's Wreck-It Ralph that makes the most of its world wide web setting without being beholden to it.
While the big highlights of the first film were its video game cameos, like Sonic, Zangief and Bowser, Wreck-It Ralph 2 leaves the arcade behind. Once again John C. Reilly is the voice of Wreck-It Ralph and Sarah Silverman is Vanellope von Schweetz as the pixelated pals head off into the internet on a quest for a new steering wheel for Vanellope's Sugar Rush game -- but will Ralph wreck it?
When Ralph and Vanellope hear the rare spare part is available in a mysterious place called eBay, the two jump into the arcade's new Wi-Fi router. They end up in an online wonderland taking the form of a gigantic Jetsons-like city, filled with tiny people representing users like you and me.
The websites and apps we know from our computers and phones, like Snapchat, Google and Instagram, appear in the form of districts and buildings. Colorful billboards represent even more of these websites, apps and games, and little cars representing web browsers hustle users between them. A myriad of internet denizens also populate the land of the internet for Ralph and Vanellope to meet.
New characters who live inside the webby world include the hyperactively autocorrecting Knowsmore, a Google-like search creature voiced by Alan Tudyk; and Yess, the algorithm for fictional video site BuzzTube, voiced by Taraji P. Henson.
Gal Gadot's Shank is arguably the biggest new character of this film. She's a tough car racer living in the GTA-like Slaughter Race, a racing world that Vanellope absolutely falls in love with. Much of the movie digs in on this conflict, where Vanellope both enjoys her original home of the candy-coated Sugar Rush racing game and loves hanging out with Ralph, yet feels so much more potential maturing into the more grown-up racing game.
There are dozens and dozens of internet meme callouts, appearances by YouTube celebrities like Dani Fernandez, Colleen Ballinger -- AKA Miranda Sings -- and even a wonderful parody of CNET called C-Note.
But the best part of Wreck-It Ralph 2 really is the story of growth between Ralph and Vanellope. The two characters have been firm friends for six years by the time this sequel takes place, creating a buddy story more akin to comedies like Superbad mixed with elements of Pixar's Toy Story 3.
Reilly and Silverman's characters are as close as can be, yet struggle as Reilly's Ralph simply won't let Vanellope go. It's a super relatable situation many friends and family members experience, and watching this film take on the theme is compelling. Even more of a triumph, the story stands up and manages not to be overshadowed by all of the internet's distractions, which also shine so brightly here: cat videos, hot pepper challenges and even Fortnite among them.
If anything, the story suffers from possibly having more sequences than the film has time to cover. A few moments seen in trailers didn't make the final cut, and though Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer reprise their roles of Calhoun and Fix-It Felix from the first movie, they're sidelined to the arcade while the real action takes place online.
Even then, like a video game, this movie is already brimming with content. Seriously, I have a notebook with an absolutely huge list of internet cameos, tech references and other surprises from the movie I can't wait to talk about once the release hits.
If your hope with Ralph Breaks the Internet is to absorb all these details and references like collectible items in Super Mario Odyssey, you're going to have fun -- and you'll need to see the movie again to find out what you missed.
Ralph Breaks the Internet is now playing in the US. It will come to the UK on Nov. 30 and Australia on Dec. 26.
First published Nov. 14, 2018 at 9 a.m. PT.
Update Nov. 21: Refreshed for the US release.
Ralph Breaks the Internet tackles modern online life: A behind-the-scenes look at just how Ralph and Vanellope head to the big (internet) city.
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