Studios like Walt Disney Pictures are very seldom afforded the opportunity to connect a beloved character of the preceding film and elevate and evolve them to new heights. “Wreck-It Ralph” played on the nostalgia of our culture and hovered around a story that was far less complex than some may care to admit. In the new “Ralph Breaks the Internet” from Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, the viewer witnesses a film utterly outdo its predecessor from everything to story to animation and even voice performances. A constructive examination of human disconnect from the world, in association with women’s idealized portrayal in our society. It’s an entertaining endeavor filled with visual intelligence.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” takes place six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph.” Ralph (voiced by Oscar nominee John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman), now best friends, discover a wi-fi router in their arcade, leading the duo on an adventure to save Vanellope’s “Sugar Rush” game from extinction.
Johnston and Moore have much to say about worldly things, inserting amusing and genuine beats that cut right through the screen in nearly every moment. John C. Reilly, who is having another bang-up year of performances that include “Stan & Ollie” and “The Sisters Brothers,” bookends it with an affirmative declaration that his place in cinema is etched forever. Sarah Silverman’s youthful and heartbreaking Vanellope finds her character unfolding into a mature version of her former self that feels utterly essential.
The animators find a perfect marriage between their new character Shank and the mere existence of megastar Gal Gadot who infuses her own infections and charm into the role. Even when physically unseen, her sexy, alluring persona seeps from the movie screen. The last few years of animation hasn’t presented a more assorted and active ensemble of voice actors as is produced here. Sprinkling in returning cast members Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch, while adding the likes of Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Alfred Molina (“An Education”), June Squibb (“Nebraska”), Ed O’Neill (ABC’s “Modern Family”), Horatio Sanz, (NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” along with current cast member Alex Moffat), Dianna Agron (“Novitiate”) is a real treat. To top off this already delicious dessert, Disney adds all our favorite Disney princesses with nearly all the originals reprised including Jodi Benson as Ariel (“The Little Mermaid”) and Paige O’Hara as Belle (“Beauty and the Beast”). We don’t deserve such beautiful things.
Henry Jackman once again finds the sentiment and elevated moments with his harmonious score, the composer’s best since “Captain Phillips” and “Big Hero 6.” If there’s something that the Academy Awards needs the most assistance with, it’s their ability to judge an animated film on all its technical merits. We’ve seen countless cartoon classics find love in categories like sound, score, and even more rare, visual effects (most recently achieved by the masterpiece “Kubo and the Two Strings”). The Oscars have yet to recognize outstanding achievements in categories like production design, cinematography, costume design, film editing, and most notably absent, best director. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” doesn’t present the most apparent case for consideration in the still uncited categories although its camera work by Nathan Warner and editing by Jeremy Millon are two efforts that should be well worth the Academy’s time.
At times, the film leans into its nostalgia sensibilities before landing firmly back into the original concept section. Impressively crafted, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is full of riches, monetizing the experiences of our fateful duo and their persistent fascination with the world. The film resonates, and not just as an instruction of life, but an examination of its reality. Not too shabby for a cartoon, eh?
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and opens in theaters on Nov. 21.