‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ works because it stirs the emotions

The Art of Nerding Out

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“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a movie that tries to travel two divergent paths. On one path, the film plays out as an entertaining and touching story about letting friendships develop and the dangers of being too needy. On the other path, the film serves as cross-promotion for multiple Disney-owned properties and other massive websites. It’s a bit of a shame because when “Ralph” plays in its own sandbox, it’s an enjoyable story.

“Ralph” takes us back to Litwak’s Arcade, and life is good for Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly). He spends his free time hanging out with his best friend, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). But that way of life is threatened when Vanellope’s game is broken.

Ralph and Vanellope take to the internet to score a replacement part for her game. During the excursion, the duo crosses paths with awesome race driver, Shank (Gal Gadot), Ralph becomes an internet megastar and Vanellope comes to an unexpected realization. Ralph and Vanellope’s friendship is tested as what each of them wants comes into conflict. Oh, and Ralph actually does break the internet.

When “Ralph” is telling its story, this movie is a fun ride that hits you in the feels. Both Ralph and Vanellope travel story arcs that are relatable and satisfying. The ending, when Ralph learns what the story needs him to learn, draws tears. The movie includes a couple really cool car chase scenes and a pretty awesome King Kong-type sequence.

The voice actors also do an excellent job of helping to tell the story. Reilly and Silverman really work well together and are totally convincing as two close friends who want different things. Gadot adds some sizzle to Shank, but she’s also warm and understanding. Taraji P. Henson is great as the character who makes Ralph internet famous. Alan Tudyk and Alfred Molina also shine in smaller roles.

The problem is that “Ralph” gets sidetracked name-checking massive internet entities and cross-promoting other Disney properties. The scenes including “Star Wars” characters feel like they could have used any characters but chose Stormtroopers and C-3P0 to remind us that “Hey, we own ‘Star Wars’, too.” And while the scenes featuring the Disney Princesses are essential to the plot, all the accompanying meta-commentary on classic characters upon which Disney built its brand comes off like a really cheesy, unfunny Dad joke.

These scenes are distracting and “Ralph” would be a better movie if these scenes were cut down or otherwise curtailed. On top of that, the way the filmmakers have rendered the world of the Internet brought back memories of “The Emoji Movie.” That’s not a good thing.

These flaws would derail other movies, but “Ralph” stays afloat because it has a core of relatable emotions and a lot of heart. The movie is also full of visual treats. I especially appreciated the way the inside of a wifi hub resembled an intergalactic despot’s spaceship throne room and how the scenes set in the dark web recalled the grit and grime of “Blade Runner.”

Take all that, mix it with the good voice performances and some pretty good laughs, and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a solid movie that will entertain your whole family and maybe even stir up your feelings. If you love animation or dug “Wreck-It Ralph,” you’re not gonna want to miss this one.

3 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG