Thursday, November 29, 2018

Movie with Abe: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Ralph Breaks the Internet
Directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore
Released November 21, 2018

Animation offers tremendous opportunity for visual exploration of ideas that can’t be captured the same way with live action. As technology continues to evolve and more elements of real life are digitized, even more possibilities emerge for how all the “ones and zeroes” work together to send signals from one place to another and to create images on screens. Six years ago, “Wreck-It Ralph” presented a wonderfully inventive and insightful interpretation of how video game characters spend their time, and now, as the Internet has become even more prominent in everyday life, its protagonists are back to explore far beyond the confines of their arcade habitat.

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is content spending each day at “work” while the arcade is open and then enjoying a nice cold root beer with his friend Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) each night. When Vanellope tells him that she wants something different, his gesture of building her a new racetrack goes awry when the steering wheel is pulled off her game and the arcade owner prepares to unplug it. Desperate to find a solution, Ralph and Vanellope head down the forbidden tunnel to the newly connected Wi-Fi to scour the Internet for a way to buy a new steering wheel off eBay to keep her game from going dark for good.

There is so much potential here, and this film delivers fantastically on it. The way the Internet looks when Ralph and Vanellope first arrive is reminiscent of “Logorama,” the Oscar-winning French short from 2009, with recognizable emblems atop towering buildings, and a particular clever help desk counter with an eager auto-populating attendant that acts as a search engine and sends the computerized versions of Internet users straight to their desired link destinations. What could be overt and distracting product placement is instead utilized for positive storytelling, and this being a Disney film may well be its best asset, incorporating all the classic and modern Disney princesses to particularly formidable effect.

This film deals with a lot in very fun fashion, staying true to its video game characters and the way that they see the world. The introduction of Shank (Gal Gadot) and her fellow racers in the dark game offers a great new form of excitement for Vanellope, whose optimistic outlook makes the frightening atmosphere look like something completely different. That energy helps to drive this entire film, which works marvelously for children but is full of smart parody for adults to enjoy and appreciate. This is exactly what a sequel should be, taking its plot to the next logical level, and it’s an even better case for spending more time in the future with all of its characters.


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