The mind-blowing part about Wreck-It Ralph was that it aimed to teach kids empathy. It was also a brilliant idea and tightly written script. In fact, the only thing wrong with it was its publicity: an unappealing gorilla of a man.
The sequel had much to live up to, and it fell short (except for the publicity). To be sure, the script is clever: Vanellope’s game is being shut down, so she and Ralph go into the Internet to attempt to buy the steering wheel to save the game. There, they fall into a series of hilarious misadventures as they attempt to raise money to pay for their EBay purchase.
But when it comes to underlying theme, Ralph Breaks the Internet disappoints. The lesson? Be secure enough to let your friends go. Vanellope wants to driver around in an online game called Slaughter Race with her new friend Shank. Ralph doesn’t want to let go.
It is 1000-foot drop down from the lofty notion of teaching kids empathy. It was just jaw-dropping that the first film even attempted such a great undertaking. Empathy is one of those abstract human qualities that only the mature can hope to acquire. And this movie want to inculcate it into kids? It got my all my admiration.
Ralph Breaks the Internet prefers a clever plot with smooth jokes over a transcendent theme. The princess scene is delightful, and the King Kong part a handy evocation of past cinematography. You can enjoy the sequel with your kids. It’s safe. But if you’re hoping for your mind to be challenged and heart to be stirred to growing nobility, you’ll be disappointed.
One final note: Wreck-It Ralph‘s script was genius. There were no untied loose ends at the end. The hurtling spaceship crashing into Sugar Crush is paralleled by Vanellope’s race car glitching past King Candy. It’s one of those internal structures that you don’t see until you’ve watched several times, and it stirs awe at the writer’s ability to seamlessly weave such a delightful and structured tale. Ralph Breaks the Internet sadly ends with loose ends. What happened to that virus? It just drops out of the story with no explanation. Unsatisfying.