I must admit at times (read most of the time) when my children and/or man-child husband are watching cartoons or even family friendly movies I completely zone out–thinking of my to do list, farting around on my phone or even snoozing. The last movie we went to in the theater with the kids, Teen Titans Go!, I practically slept through half of it, not that it wasn’t a good movie but I was just that tired. Having not seen the first Wreck it Ralph movie, I assumed the same could happen with this movie–I didn’t have much interest or knowledge of the back story and to boot we went on Thanksgiving. Tryptophan + kids movie + awesome recliner seats = Nicole snoring! But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie as did the kids. And I only missed a few minutes taking Jojo to the bathroom or running to grab paper towels after she spilled her slushy on her shirt 🙂 So here’s my take on the movie and just to be fair this will be full of SPOILERS so reader beware!
This movie is all about friendship. Ralph and fellow arcade game character Vanellope are going about their daily routine of “working all day” and then hanging out all night, usually doing the same thing–namely visiting the other games (burgers from BurgerTime, root beer from Tapper, playing Tron and Techmo Bowl) before returning to the terminal (aka the surge protector) to watch the sunrise. While Ralph is totally content in this unwavering lifestyle, Vanellope is feeling the need for something different, something new and exciting. To make his friend feel better Ralph decides to take matters in to his own hands, literally, by wrecking a new track in her game, Sugar Rush, which while well intentioned led to the destruction of the game’s steering wheel. Since the old game’s company has gone out of business, the only way to get a replacement wheel and keep Sugar Rush from the salvage yard is to get the only one listed on the internet on E-bay.
Lucky for them, Mr. Litwick (the arcade’s owner) has just upgraded to have WiFi and Vanellope and Ralph find themselves on an adventure through the internet to get the wheel. They find E-bay easily enough with the help of the “Search Bar'”-tender Mr. Knowsmore. However, they clearly don’t understand the concept of bidding on E-bay and quickly escalate the price from a mere few hundred dollars to $27,001 and then again are flabbergasted that they actually need REAL money to buy it. Left with only 24 hours to come up with the cash before their bid is nulled, they set out to make money fast. They first return to the internet floor where they find a Pop-Up they ran into earlier named Spamley who says he can pay them cash for playing video games and finding the hidden treasures that others will buy. Knowing they need a lot of money they ask for the biggest “treasure” out there and are excited when he shows them a car from racing same Slaughter Race.
While Ralph does not find the set of Slaughter Race endearing, Vanellope falls in love with it–the excitement, the awesome racing and especially the super talented driver whose car they’re trying to swipe, Shank. While Shank won’t let them away with her car, she does lead them to earning money at BuzzTube and films their first video to go viral. Ralph vows to make so many videos to earn all the money they will need to secure their E-bay bounty. Vanellope wants to help by being a pop-up pusher. She ventures back out to the internet and finds herself amongst the Disney princesses where she has a heart to heart about following ones dreams. While Vanellope has been saying her dream is to get the steering wheel so she can get back to her arcade game life, in reality her dream is to stay in the internet drag racing in Slaughter Race.
When Ralph calls Vanellope to tell her the amazing news that they just made the deadline to buy the steering wheel, the phone is unknowingly answered and put on mute so Ralph overhears Vanellope telling Shank that she really doesn’t want to go back home and that she wants to stay in Slaughter Race but she would feel bad for letting Ralph down. Shank lovingly tells her that there is no rule that friends have to have the same dreams and Ralph thinks he is doomed to return without her. In a desperate attempt to make Slaughter Race less fun, he enlists the help of DoubleDan from the dark web to put a virus in the game–not to hurt anyone, but just to slow it down–make it less exciting.
But the virus is actually an insecurity virus–picking up on any little flaw and exploiting it. It picks up on Vanellope’s glitch and spreads it throughout the game, leading it to shut down and reboot. When she finds out Ralph was responsible for the virus, Vanellope lays into him and tells him to leave her alone. An escaped virus picks up on Ralph’s emotional insecurities and spreads cloned needy, clingy Ralphs all throughout the internet who are all searching for Vanellope, form a giant Ralph that essentially break the internet. As the chase ensues and Ralph along with Vanellope and Yess, the BuzzTube lead algorithm, try to lead the Ralphs to an anti-virus software, Ralph recognizes the selfishness of trying to hold his friend back. He uses this argument to make the giant Ralph release Vanellope and promises her that he will let her go to follow her dreams because that is what real friends do. The Giant Ralph then dissolves away with the real Ralph’s insecurities.
And Ralph does let her go: Vanellope returns to Slaughter Race as part of the regular crew and Ralph goes back to the arcade, doing what he does best. They call each other and give each other updates, promising to visit soon. And as the sunrise comes up through the arcade window, Ralph takes in its splendor and heads off to work.
I really liked this movie, I will definitely be advocating for it to be watched many times at home in the future and will be getting the original too. Here are my top highlights:
The Internet itself. The visuals of the Internet were so perfect for kids and adults alike. Displayed as a futuristic city with flying cars zooming around taking people to their online destinations, you could feel the awe of how big and wonderful of a place it could be. Towering buildings represent the bread and butter websites that are common vocabulary–Google, E-bay, Amazon. Thrown in there are the creative plays on some sites, like BuzzTube. Our kids, at least, are too young to pick up on some of the nuances that represent our real-world internet, like little blue birds tweeting around or annoying characters shoving pop-up ads in your face. Then you get to Spamley’s sketchy “website” which he claims is “virus free” as he simultaneously stomps on a bunch of cockroaches. Even in the end credits are spot on–in the bottom corner you see another skeezy place with an tilted placard claiming to sell “NEW Credit Cards”.
Disney Princesses. These ladies were used so well in this movie. They quickly shatter their usual clichés when they ask Vanellope if everyone assumed her problems all got solved because a big strong man showed up. With a big YES proving that Vanellope really is a princess, one of my favorite parts is when Cinderellas mice-tailors copy Vanellope’s casual style making “comfy” outfits for each of the princesses including t-shirts with catchphrases like “LET IT GO” for Elsa and “Nap Queen”for Sleeping Beauty. But even better than all this, the ladies show off their skills, using all their various talents in a kick-butt rescue scene at the end when Ralph falls from the dissolved Giant Ralph. Defying the passive, naïve characterizations they have had for so many years, Disney shows the diversity and strengths of the female character in such a creative way. Bravo!
Emotions. The first thing out of my son’s mouth when I asked him how he liked the movie was “some parts were sad”. While not quite a Siskel and Ebert type review, he had a point. This movie let the characters be sad. And angry and foolish and insecure. And then it showed them how to turn those emotions around. How to recognize that the opinions of everyone out there, often projecting their own issues, don’t matter–that your real friends will have your back. That when sometimes our own tunnel vision keeps us from really seeing those around us, even those we are closest to, we need to step back and get new perspective. Corny, I know, but even at the very end, Ralph basks in the sunrise, sighs and smiles, he teaches us that even when things don’t end up how you wanted them to, it’s ok.
Overstuffed bunny. Bunny + Pancakes + overzealous Ralph = enough said. Made me laugh out loud which is somewhat of a feat. Great end to a great movie.
Comic Bookworm Grade: A