For many, the chief pleasure of 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph was as a cameo-filled celebration of retro video games. As such, the prospect of a sequel that jettisoned this focus for a broad riff on online culture was decidedly unappealing. But while it’s destined to age horribly, and some of the humour falls flat, Ralph Breaks the Internet is a largely charming affair. This vibrant animation reteams misunderstood villain Ralph (John C. Reilly) with his best buddy Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), the perky star of a garish racing game. When a kid breaks the steering wheel of the ageing arcade cabinet that Vanellope calls home, the pair disappear down a wireless router in search of a replacement. There’s surface-level enjoyment to be derived from the film’s inventive visualisation of cyberspace, but it really excels as a moving exploration of a dysfunctional friendship. As big-hearted as Ralph seems, it becomes apparent that his inherent neediness is stifling Vanellope’s growth – a postmodern sequence featuring a host of pissed-off Disney princesses emphasises this point in amusing fashion. It all builds to a conclusion that will likely prove enlightening for kids, and unexpectedly wrenching for their parents.
Ralph Breaks the Internet | Directed by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston (US 2018) with John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman. Starts January 24.
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