In 10 Words or LessRalph, Vanellope and their video-game pals go online
The MovieWhen last we saw Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his pal Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), they were happily ensconced in their respective arcade video games, having reached peace with their roles: Vanellope as the star of her racing game and Ralph as the willing "bad guy" of his game. And as the follow-up opens, the two friends are immersed in their routines, starring the games at Litwak's Arcade during the day and hanging out around the world of video games at night, though Vanellope has begun to wonder if there's more to life than the programmed tracks she drives. Her boredom leads to catastrophe when Ralph tries to help shake things up and the only answer to their problems lies on the Internet, newly accessible via a Wi-Fi router installed in the arcade.
The presentation of the Internet is the core of the film, as all of the things we love and hate about being online is creatively personified or conceptualized into a tangible world for Ralph and Vanellope to explore, whether it's the method of moving from website to website, the action of searching (as depicted through Alan Tudyk's KnowsMore search engine character) or the plague of pop-up ads (delightfully portrayed by Bill Hader). In this new world, Ralph quickly finds himself become a viral sensation (shepherded by Taraji P. Henson's cultural curator Yesss) and Vanellope finds a new hero and friend in Shank (Gal Gadot), the hard-driving star of the grimdark racing game "Slaughter Race". A wedge grows between Vanellope and Ralph, and in order to get his friend back and return everything to normal, Ralph calls upon the denizens of the dark web, which only makes things worse.
Though the original Wreck-It Ralph certainly had its share of lessons to be learned about friendship, being comfortable with who you are, and making your own judgements about people, it was a pretty straightforward adventure, with a defined villain and clear plot progression, using the themes to underline the action and inform the characters. In the sequel, the feelings of the characters and their internal struggles are pretty much the basis of the plot, with Ralph learning that fame on the Internet has a dark undertow, and Vanellope struggling with her desire to try new things that may not involve her best friend. If the first film's themes of preconceptions and self-worth were a bit over the heads of the younger viewers, six years later that audience might be ready for the emotional drama of the follow-up, and find what it has to say has definite value.
That said, Ralph Breaks the Internet is not a PSA and brings plenty to enjoy, loaded with a wealth of fun references to Disney and its related franchises--including a number of nods to the Marvel and Star Wars fandoms (including a wordless cameo by Stan Lee)--but nothing as good as one of the best uses of the Disney Princesses, as Vanellope gets to meet her fellow Mouse House compatriots (through the magic of online fandom.) There's so much to enjoy about their presence in the film--from the contemporary casual wear Vanellope inspires to Merida's harsh accent to their very against-type behavior--that it makes you think maybe an Avengers-style film about them would be a treat. They certainly make the biggest impact of anyone in the movie.
Of course, Reilly and Silverman are both quite fun in their parts, especially when Silverman gets to perform her very own princess "I Want" song--as only she could, in collaboration with Godot--and they also are more than capable of managing the emotional swings the movie throws at them. They don't get to be as funny as they were in the first film (the plot keeps them separate often and puts them into a lot of dramatic or emotional sequences, including two big action set pieces) but that seems to mirror the maturation that taken place in their characters and, perhaps, in the viewers. That doesn't mean there's not plenty of silliness in the film--the silent character of Gord is a sneaky scene-stealer, and the wealth of comedy cameos (like the amusingly-named Hey Nongman) will keep you constantly hearing familiar funny folk--it's just not the main point, as the finale makes crystal clear in a very on-the-nose and off-putting way.
The DiscsThe Ultimate Collector's Edition of Ralph Breaks the Internet arrives in a two-disc set, with one 4K UHD disc and one Blu-ray, which are held in a dual-hubbed black UHD keepcase, wrapped in an embossed holofoil slipcover. The disc offers an animated menu with options to watch the film, select scenes and adjust the set-up. Audio options on the UHD disc include English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, while subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Audio options on the Blu-ray include English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, and French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, while subtitles are available in English SDH, English, French and Spanish.
The QualityWatching the 2160p UHD transfer with HDR-enhancement, and comparing it with the 1080p Blu-ray transfer, the difference in the 2.39:1 image's detail or clarity isn't going to blow you away the way 4K transfers tend to do with older films, likely due to the film's digital origins and the maturity of Blu-ray mastering, which gets more bang for its buck at this point than the relatively new UHD process. The film looks fantastic on both discs, with a high level of fine detail (hunting for the film's many easter eggs is an activity made for this kind of image), though you will naturally notice the smaller details a bit more on the UHD release, like the various human avatars and the creepy details during the big climax (Cronenberg would be proud.) But when it comes to the color, the impact of HDR is clear,with the UHD disc coming off far more vibrant and more capable of offering a wider range of colors, which comes in handy in the dismal world of Shank and her car-racing pals, where the palette is earth and rust, but the UHD delivered deeper shades of those colors and make more a more pleasing image. Similarly, the dark web is a dank locale, with lots of indirect cast light, and that atmosphere is more distinctly defined thanks to the HDR. On the other end of the scale, when Vanellope meets the Princesses, you couldn't ask for more variety in color and more discrete usage of it, and the HDR makes this scene really sing in comparison to the Blu-ray. In translating the film to disc, no problems were introduced, leaving the film looking clean and gorgeous.
The obvious difference when comparing the Atmos track on the UHD to the 7.1 presentation on the Blu-ray is the added overhead channels, but it goes well beyond that, with all elements experiencing a boost to go along with the 4K image, particularly the low-end, which jumps right out during the music and action sequences, so the sound has a weight you can feel. The surrounds are very active, with nice movement and discreet placement in all your speakers, with the top-side coming into play throughout, as the action in the film is all around the room. While dialogue is mainly a center-channel affair--with some spillover and the occasional off-screen voice in the surrounds), the rest of the elements make for an impressively enveloping experience.
The ExtrasAs usual, the 4K disc offers zero extras, so we turn to the Blu-ray, where things get started with "Surfing for Easter Eggs" (3:36), which feels like your average, fluffy review of the hidden tidbits in the film, but there are plenty of easy-to-miss references in every nook and cranny of the film, and this featurette reveals a handful of them. Learning even more would have been even better.
"The Music of Ralph Breaks the Internet" (6:07) uses interviews with producer Clark Spencer, Executive Music Producer Tom MacDougall, composers Henry Jackman and Alan Menken, directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston and Silverman to explore the score (including footage of scoring sessions), the creation of Vanellope's spotlight song with Shank (with recording footage of the two actresses), and the adaptation of that song into a Disney pop version by Julia Michaels, as well as Imagine Dragons' end theme (with the musicians on hand to chat about their involvement.) The videos for their songs--"In This Place" (3:22) and "Zero" (3:51) respectively--are available to check out. Despite the common backlash to the band, Imagine Dragons' song is rather enjoyable, though there are film-related elements of the video that verge on disturbing.
"BuzzzTube Cats" (1:47) ia another example of Disney's emphasis on animation research, as it brings together a collection of quick-hit clips created by the animators to explore internet culture. Suffice it to say, if you like cat videos, you'll enjoy this.
The 32:57 "How We Broke the Internet" is a 10-part behind-the-scenes look at the development of the film from all angles, and is the most in-depth exploration of the making of the movie (considering there's no commentary provided.) The segments focus on core characters and ideas, including the settings, the websites and the stunts--which saw the animators hit a stunt track to learn about high-speed driving. They also talk about portraying the darker side of the internet, an interesting element of the film's web conceit. As good as this is as a concise look at the film, a documentary four times as long (or, you know, a commentary) would have been very welcome.
There are five deleted scenes (running a combined 19:05), which are presented as fully voiced and scored animatics (and. in one case, nearly completed animation), with introductions from Moore and Johnston, who place the scenes in the context of the finished film, and explain why they didn't make it to the end of production. There are actually some interesting moments here that are worth taking a look at.
Also in the package is a MoviesAnwhere code.
The Bottom LineWreck-It Ralph was a wonderful tale and a self-contained tale, which made a sequel something hardly necessary. Disney won't pass up a chance to rake in cash though, so we got another trip into Ralph's world, and the result is a solid action film set in a tangible Internet universe, with a story about how friendship changes running through it. There are some clever and well-developed observations about Internet culture, but the film's focus is really on how a friendship survives over time. Presented in 4k, Ralph Breaks the Internet is aesthetically pleasing, though the limited extras will be disappointing to anyone expecting a true "Ultimate Collector's Edition". If you enjoyed the first film or want to revisit the best portrayal yet of the Disney Princesses, it's worth checking this one out.
Reviewer's Bias*Loves: Animation
Likes: Disney, John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman
Dislikes: Unnecessary sequels
Hates: Half-hearted "collector's editions"