Ralph Breaks the Internet (4 stars)

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Satisfying sequel to 2012's animated smash that celebrates and satirises online culture

After The Emoji Movie and Ready Player One, do we need another film about how amazeballs the internet is? Surely not, which is why it's a relief when directors Phil Johnston and Rich Moore's sequel to Disney's 2012 gaming adventure Wreck-It Ralph outstrips that off-putting premise. What starts as a splatter-gun celebration of cyberspace spectacle becomes a savvy, sweet fable of friendship and online distraction, its in-jokes and emotional stakes interwoven with surprising subtlety.

Expanding on the first instalment's limited horizons, ham-fisted arcade game lug Ralph (voiced by John C Reilly) and small-fry pal Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) venture into the internet when her game, Sugar Rush, needs a new part. The broken item is a steering wheel, which figures: for a while, writers Johnston and Pamela Ribon lurch randomly between literal-minded realisations of 'net environs, the sight gags ranging from decent (the pop-ups) to deadly obvious (Twitter).

But the film powers up as it reaches the murky corners of e-commerce, online multiplayer games and social media comments, complete with transgenerational tensions about their appeal. Ralph's fleeting 'Buzztube' fame sparks a downward spiral of insecurity. Meanwhile, Vanellope's youthful existential crisis steers her from street-racing games to encounters with Disney princesses, where studio self-promotion is disarmed by judicious doses of satire. Careful with that broken slipper, Cinders.

From here, droll nods to films aplenty lead to a finale that cleverly wires echoes of World War Z and King Kong to the dynamic between our heroes. Glitches en route include choppy plotting and Gal Gadot's affectless vocal cameo, but Reilly and Silverman ensure the heroes' journeys register through the writers' exhaustive – and mostly on-point – nods to online culture. The pay-off is a sequel rich in ideas and character investment, capped with a wistful climax: the kind that leaves you torn between wanting another sequel and hoping Disney stops there, for fear of breaking it.

General release from Fri 30 Nov.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 52min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
  • Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Taraji P. Henson
  • UK release: 30 November 2018

Ralph (Reilly) and Vanellope (Silverman) have to go to the internet when her game, Sugar Rush, needs a new part. What could have been yet another film about how amazeballs the internet is, becomes a savvy and sweet tale of friendship, subtly weaving the in-jokes with the emotional stakes.