Ralph Breaks the Internet is almost too meta

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Ralph Breaks the Internet, the sequel to 2012’s Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph, is now available on digital, Blu-ray and DVD.

John. C. Reilly returns as the titular Ralph, with Sarah Silverman returning as race-game princess Vanellope. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch also return as unlikely power couple Fix-It Felix (a Mario clone to Ralph’s Donkey Kong) and Sgt. Calhoun.

Joining them are Gal Gadot as motor-mayhem maven Shank, Taraji P. Henson as influencer supreme Yesss and Alan Tudyk as search engine avatar KnowsMore. These new characters add layers of internet and pop culture (are those the same thing now?) and many clever references for everyone, which is what makes these banner animated adventures so rewarding to family audiences and fans of all ages.

Blu-ray bonus extras include the usual suspects, such as deleted scenes, Easter eggs and a behind-the-scenes look at “How We Broke the Internet” (or at least turned it into an environment with characters that come to life). All of these features make Ralph Breaks the Internet a fine addition to collectors’ shelves, of course. If you saw this movie on the big screen, though, they may not justify a full-price purchase here. (Your mileage may vary.)

Shank (Gal Gadot) Ralph Breaks the Internet
Shank (Gal Gadot)

Despite a bevy of Disney Princesses to delight generations of fans with some unexpected and refreshing long-overdue agency, it’s the streetwise Shank who really drives the story here, opening up “A Whole New World” for Vanellope even as the “Sugar Rush” of her friendship with Ralph fades into their own retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.”

While the sequel definitely represents a next level, expanding the original film’s world of interconnected video game archetypes for everyone (and making it relatable for those who surf the web but may not be diehard gamers) as Vanellope’s eyes open to new possibilities, it flails as a continuation of Ralph’s story, which essentially came to fruition in the first release.

With its namesake protagonist spinning out of control and subverting his own heroic achievements out of fear of losing his best friend, Ralph Breaks the Internet tries to ascend to an enlightened exploration of toxic masculinity and toxic fandom — so sadly and so often intertwined these days — but the new movie falls into the trap of repeating the mistakes its misunderstood hero already learned from, just as he himself does.

The real story trying to break through is that this is Vanellope’s movie, or it should be — and any future installments, whether a third film or a book, game, comic or small-screen series, ought to get that straight right from the starting line before pressing “play.” Sadly, her empowering story rides shotgun — again — to Ralph’s second awakening. That’s good for him, and they both end up in a healthier relationship to model for everyone who rescues princesses, or gets rescued by them, or just wants to engage with other people online. But, in the end, it’s just like watching someone else play a game — intriguing and informative, but ultimately disappointing.

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Jayson Peters

Digital, social and print media pro. Nerdvana's founder, curator and editor.

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