Ralph Breaks the Internet
Directed by Phil Johnston, Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson
Rated PG for some action and rude humor
1 hr., 52 mins.

Poor Ralph! First, he wants to be a hero and causes untold video game havoc. Now he’s forced to endure the same kind of nonsense most of us put up with every day in our Internet universe. I don’t know how you feel about living online these days, but to me, his second fate is much worse. He’s annoyed by all the distractions. I know exactly how he feels.

Funny how the same Ralph, so charming in the original, can be so . . .  commercialized, shall we say, in his sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet. Maybe it’s just more fun to remember how video games used to be cheesy and charming. On the Internet, all that fun is blotted out by popup ads and digital traffic.

It’s been six years since Ralph (John C. Reilly) decided to shake up the video world in Wreck-It Ralph. Now he’s happy with his work and hangs out every night at Litwak’s Family Fun Center with his gal pal Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) from the game Sugar Rush. But Vanellope is bored with the same racetrack and the same results every game. She wants something different.

Ralph in his typical bullish manner decides to build her a new racetrack. Unfortunately, it causes a conflict between Vanellope the driver and the gamer with the steering wheel. When the steering wheel breaks, Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neill) cannot order a replacement because the designers of Sugar Rush have gone defunct. One of the gamers finds a wheel on eBay, but it’s much too expensive. As a result, Mr. Litwak shuts down Sugar Rush and leaves all its characters homeless.

Meanwhile, Mr. Litwak has installed WiFi in the arcade, but it’s considered out of bounds for any of the video characters. Ralph and Vanellope decide to break in, track down the offer on eBay and bring back the steering wheel.

In the online world, Ralph and Vanellope are baffled. Just finding eBay is one challenge. Ralph, in his typical crash-forward fashion, manages to run up the bid on the steering wheel from $200 to $27,000. Now, if he doesn’t come up with the cash in 24 hours, he loses his bid forever. No steering wheel, no Sugar Rush. But how does one make that much money on the Internet? For Ralph and Vanellope the simple answer is . . . steal a car.

For directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, the challenge here is to make the Internet charming and funny. The approach they choose is tongue in cheek. Disney in particular has allowed them much leeway to poke fun at their characters. What’s lurking in the picture, however, are the huge corporate logos common to adult Internet users.

The film vaults continuously between the characters’ sense of wonder and the Internet’s search engines and marketing tools. While the movie is high energy with ample adventure and wit, it’s also an openly commercial skyline for Internet marketing.

Take for example the effort behind making Ralph’s videos a viral sensation. Yes, some of it is funny, but it’s also a YouTube lookalike posing as a children’s adventure. And of course, we all have to deal with the 800-pound gorilla that these videos exploit — the wonderful world of spam.

While there are some entertaining moments and some charming moments, and even some thoughtful moments as Ralph and Vanellope test their friendship, I might think twice about who should go see this.

And I also wondered: Does this movie imply that young children are already so immersed in the Internet that they would be comfortable with all the tools on display? Perhaps it’s also a consideration for parents wrestling with how much Internet to share with their children. In Ralph, it’s all there for kids to watch; a whole, visual, high-powered world of advertising, all aimed at little eyes.