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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ralph Breaks the Internet -- the sequel to Disney's hit video-game comedy Wreck-It Ralph -- tells a strong friendship story within its framework of video game characters, popular websites, and social media platforms. It will appeal to viewers of all ages, but the themes and messages (particularly those about the nature of online life and internet fame) are best suited to tweens and up. Several scenes take place inside a Grand Theft Auto-esque driving game called Slaughter Race that's full of weapons, creepy clowns, and lots of danger, stunts, and crashes. Other scary moments/characters include a creepy dark web kingpin and an out-of-control insecurity virus that turns into a giant monster and threatens everything in its path, including Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). Expect some potty humor/language ("butt," "doody") and insults ("stink brain," "dummy," "stupid," etc.), as well as a ton of featured tech logos and brands, from eBay and Google to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Parent company Disney also has a big presence, specifically the Disney princesses, who play a role in the story. The movie fully explores how the internet can be both wonderful and terrible and has strong themes of empathy, courage, perseverance, and self-control.
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What's the story?
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET -- the sequel to Disney's 2012 video-game adventure Wreck-It Ralph -- takes place a few years after the events of the original. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is completely happy with his daily routine: starring all day in his game at a throwback arcade and then hanging out all night with Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). But risk-taking Vanellope yearns for change, so Ralph goes into her game, Sugar Rush, to change the course ... which leads to disaster when the game's external controls break. Without an easy way to replace the vintage game part, Sugar Rush gets unplugged, leaving Vanellope and all her game-mates homeless. Feeling responsible, Ralph and Vanellope hatch a plan to go online and find a replacement controller. But once they're online, Ralph and Vanellope quickly find themselves in over their heads and must scramble to find a way to pay for the replacement part and save Sugar Rush. They try a couple of get-rich-quick schemes -- from winning online-game prizes they can sell to creating viral videos. Will it be enough?
Is it any good?
Disney's charming, insightful sequel shines a light on the wonders and horrors of the internet, from the camaraderie of sharing silly viral videos to the vicious nature of social media comments. Reilly and Silverman continue to sell the close friendship between a misunderstood video game villain and a glitch-prone young speedster. Their new adventure thrusts the BFFs into the wilds of the web; adults, even more than kids, will enjoy the movie's jokes and references to sites and internet phenomena that are all too relatable. In one key subplot, Vanellope and Ralph enter Slaughter Race, a gritty, dangerous online multiplayer racing game in which they encounter the game's star racer, Shank (Gal Gadot), whose car Vanellope hopes to steal and sell. Instead, she feels utterly, unexpectedly at home with Shank and her crew. Gadot is fabulously cast as the fierce, wise crew boss.
Another major, meta cameo has Vanellope infiltrating Disney's own social site in pursuit of more likes for Ralph's viral videos. She ends up meeting all of the Disney princesses (including the oft-overlooked Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, and Jasmine!), voiced mostly by their original actors. Since Vanellope is also a princess, the ladies have a hilarious conversation about what it means to be a princess (magical abilities, dead parent(s), important water, curses, and big, strong men). The sequence is surprisingly funny and layered, and the princesses all end up changing into loungewear to follow Vanellope's comfortable hoodie chic. As in the first movie, the theme of identity is important to Ralph Breaks the Internet, as is the meaning and nature of friendship and what it means to follow your dreams -- and support those you love as they follow their own passions. Although the thought of any sequel usually seems unnecessary, here the filmmakers work magic with a script full of heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way the internet is portrayed in Ralph Breaks the Internet. What is the movie saying about the pursuit of "likes" and viral fame?
What do Ralph and Vanellope learn about the pitfalls of spending money -- and trying to make money -- online? What kinds of marketing should kids look out for on the internet?
What do you think of Yesss' comments to Ralph that the internet can be horrible ("never read the comments") but also great? Do you agree? What examples can you think of on both sides?
What did you think about the way the Disney princesses are portrayed in the movie? What about their interactions with Vanellope rings true about the common themes in princess movies? Did it make you see their stories in a new light?
What is the movie's message about friendship? Do best friends have to do everything together to really be best friends? What are Ralph and Vanellope's strengths as friends? Weaknesses?
- In theaters: November 21, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: February 26, 2019
- Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot
- Directors: Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance, Self-control
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some action and rude humor
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: November 15, 2019
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