Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.
So occasionally I will actually watch movies made for grownups and recently Ms Mouse and I saw Rocketman, which I can best describe as “Bohemian Rhapsody but not terrible”. Apart from quality the two movies are scarily similar but then I suppose that’s just the nature of musical bio-pics. They all follow the same pattern: You start out with our protagonist living in grim, post-war Britain, all cobble-streets, glass milk bottles and tuberculosis. You have the unsupportive parents saying “Yew’ll nevah make nuffin o’ yoself” and then the moment where they decide to rename themselves from Rodney McBorningname to Elvis Stardazzle and then fame, fortune, a sleazy manager played by a Game of Thrones alum, rises, falls, break-ups, breakdowns and a moment where the protagonist’s oldest and dearest friend from childhood reads them the riot act.
What does this have to do with Ralph Breaks the Internet? Because if the Disney canon was a musical biopic, this movie would be the point in the story where Elvis Stardazzle is slumped over a table in a trashed mansion covered in a thick layer of cocaine and groupie juice, having driven away all the people who ever loved him with his massive ego and unwillingness to see how far he’s gone off the rails.
Guys, I’m not going to toy with you on this. I fucking hate this movie. My brother, the Unscrupulous Mouse, declared this the worst Disney canon movie since Dinosaur and, while I can’t agree, I really want to. Can I sit here and tell you that animation is worse than Chicken Little? No. Can I tell you that it’s worse directed than Home on the Range? Well…I mean…no. No I can’t do that. What’s wrong with Wreck It Ralph 2 isn’t anything to do with the animation or direction or voice cast but with an attitude of insufferable all-encompassing smugness that sets me little mouse teeth right on edge. Everything from that FUCKING title to the instant datedness of the references to the obnoxious “what you gonna do about it?” reminders of the Disney corporation’s near cultural stranglehold on every nook and cranny of pop culture. I hate it. I hate this. I hate what Disney’s become.
So the movie begins exactly six years after the last one and literally nothing has changed. Ralph and Vanellope are still best friends, Felix and Calhoun are still happily married and everything’s great because the last movie had a happy ending with every little thing tied up neatly and ain’t that a promising start to a new story?
See, Wreck it Ralph 2 is the type of sequel that used to be very common but is becoming a much rarer beast; a continuation of a story that was never intended to be continued. It’s easy to forget in this era of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Marvel’s ongoing multi-movie Wagnerian opera on Magic Glowing Rocks and the Men Who Love Them that standard operating procedure in Hollywood used to be make a movie, then if it made money make a sequel narrative logic be damned. Which is not to say that you can’t make a good movie continuing the story of a film that was all nice and wrapped up the first time around. Pixar have made something of an art-form of that. I thought Toy Story 2 was going to suck, I really thought Toy Story 3 was going to suck and part of me even thinks Toy Story 4 is going to suck despite all evidence to the contrary.
But it’s a harder plough to row, or something. Basically, it means you have to spend time unpicking a perfectly good happy ending.
So Mr. Litwack, who has somehow managed to maintain a video arcade as a financially viable enterprise in 2018, has finally decided to give them there interwebs a try and has connected his arcade to an online server. The game characters are confused as to what the internet is, and Sonic the Hedgehog helpfully explains that “the internet is an online community where human beings go to shop, and play games, and socialize.”
Yeah, I’m sorry. I call bullshit. There is literally no computer game character less suited to make the “the internet is such a cool place!” pitch than Sonic the Hedgehog. If this movie was honest, the second that server showed up Sonic would be huddled in a ball in the corner screaming “Oh God! No! The furries! Don’t let them get me!”
Anyway, Surge Protector shows up and tells them to stay off the internet and do something healthy, like play video games i.e. do their darn jobs.
Ralph is loving life but Vanellope is finding the horrific monotony of being the digital plaything of unthinking god-children day in-day out to be a bit of a bummer and asks Ralph if he ever gets bored and Ralph replies that of course not, he could never be sick and tired of his game’s routine. I mean, who would even do that? Not Wreck it Ralph.
However, he does decide to surprise Vanellope by creating a new track for her in her game. During a Sugar Rush race, Vanellope discovers the new track and is so excited that she actually wrests control of the game from the human player.
The girl who’s playing the game tries so hard to regain control that she ends up breaking the game’s steering wheel. Litwack is able to find a replacement online but it’s too expensive so he decides to take the ol’ Sugar Rush game back behind the woodshed and put it out of its misery. Realising that the game is about to be unplugged, all the inhabitants of Sugar Rush are forced to flee for their very lives. So, to recap: Because of Vanellope’s reckless and unpredictable actions, the entire game world of Sugar Rush has been destroyed and its inhabitants made homeless.
The resulting refugee crisis is quickly and easily dealt with as these things so often are with the homeless game characters being re-housed without anyone make much of a fuss about it. All that remains are the fifteen racing characters led by Taffeta Muttonfudge, played in the original by Mindy Kahling and by Melissa Villaseñor here. Why was Kahling replaced? Not a clue, but I’m convinced it goes all the way to the White House. Anyway, Calhoun and Felix decide to adopt the racers despite the fact that they were coded by Satan himself. This little subplot goes more or less nowhere, folks.
Anyway, Vanellope is feelin’ kinda blue what with having doomed her entire world, but Ralph has an idea: they’ll go on the internet themselves and order a new steering wheel for Sugar Rush, thus saving the game (literally).
I have to say, I do like the movie’s visualisation of the internet, and I don’t even have a problem with the fact that it doubles as advertising for pretty much every major app and website Disney could get their grubby little tentacles on. I mean, there’s an episode of the Simpsons where they introduce “Steve Mobs”, the founder of “Mapple” (because it was Season 20 and the fucks the writers had once given had receded far into the mists of legend) and I always find that kind of thing intensely distracting. So I don’t mind that Google and YouTube exist in this world. It does irk me a little that somehow there are sites like “KnowsMore” and “Buzzztube” that exist alongside Google and YouTube and do the exact same thing. Ah well, maybe this universe just has better anti-trust laws.
Ralph and Vanellope ask KnowsMore, a search engine voiced by Alan Tudyk, where they can find the steering wheel they need. By this point I’m not actually sure that Tudyk isn’t an old-time Disney voice actor who was cryogenically frozen and woke up in a strange new world. He just brings a classic quality to his voice work. I also love the design, very fifties Disney.
They head over to E-Bay and bid for the steering wheel but, because they’re computer game characters with no concept of currency larger than a quarter, they end up over-bidding with no way to pay for it and if they can’t scrounge up the dough in 24 hours they’ll lose the wheel. So now we have our ticking clock. Well actually, we already had our ticking clock, with Litwack planning to get rid of Sugar Rush, but now our ticking clock has a ticking clock. To raise the money, they turn to a shady spam-bot named J.P. Spamley who promises to help them make money by playing video games. Since making money by playing video games is literally their entire reason for existing, Ralph and Vanellope are all in.
Their first job is to steal a car from a MMORPG called Slaughter Race which is like Grand Theft Auto without the gentle humanism. The car is owned by the game’s boss, Shank, voiced by Gal Gadot.
Nothing against Gadot as an actor but let’s be honest. This is celebrity voice casting to a degree that even Dreamworks at their worst would be embarassed by.
The pair almost succeed in jacking Shank’s car but get caught by Shank’s gang. Shank is impressed enough with Vanellope’s driving skills that she offers to show them how to make money by making videos on the internet.
Not like that. They record Ralph getting blasted in the face with a leaf blower on Shank’s smartphone which they then upload to BuzzzTube, the “Senor Spielbergo” of video platforms. This video of Ralph getting blown (not like that) is utterly pointless, devoid of any intellectual merit and asinine to the point of being medically dangerous. It, of course, becomes a massive hit.
Ralph and Vanellope head over to BuzzzTube where they meet Yessss, the algorithim that decides what chunks of digital gristle rise to the top of the trough on any given day and ask for her help in raising the money they need to buy the steering wheel. Ralph says that he’ll do anything, no matter how stupid, degrading, immoral or dangerous to become famous on the internet and Yessss is all “welcome home”.
This next sequence is…
Okay, you remember Moana? Sure you do. Great flick. Remember though how there was one part of it that we all swore never to speak of again?
DON’T SAY IT we all remember that part, right? Okay. Take the awful, cringe-inducing crapitude of that one line of dialogue and stretch it out to minutes on end and you have the sequence where Ralph appears in multiple pastiches of famous YouTube videos and scores of hyucking office drones just eat up. If I wanted to convince aliens to nuke the human race from orbit, I’d show them this clip. Honestly, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think this was the most searing inditement of humanity in general and internet culture specifically that had ever been put to film. Perhaps Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon are our Prophet Jeremiah, exhorting us in fiery tones to repent and turn to the rightgeous path before it is too late? If only. It’s honestly remarkable to watch a movie literally dating as you watch it. I wonder if this will even be comprehensible to people watching five years from now?
So Ralph becomes a viral sensation much like Ebola, and Yesss mobilises an army of algorithims to draw an ever larger army of drooling cretins to watch Ralph’s audio-visual effluent. Vanellope wants to help but Ralph doesn’t want her going back to Slaughter Race so instead he sends her to Oh My Disney! where Oh My! Disney!
It’s a hell of a thing to watch a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate just straight up stroking itself in front of you like a famous comedian about to be hit with a hashtag. Anyway, after Disney finishes rubbing our faces in the fact that it owns Star Wars, Marvel, the Muppets, the works of AA Milne and the entire Western canon from Beowulf onward we get to that scene. You know the one I mean. This scene is to Wreck it Ralph 2 what the Milk Bar scene is to Clockwork Orange. The one thing that everyone remembers. The crown jewel. The virtual raison d’etre of the entire movie.
The Princess scene.
It happens during the Oh My Disney sequence (the worst scenes in this thing nest within each other like the devil’s’ own matroyshka dolls) when Vanellope finds one of those “What Disney Princess Am I?” apps (I’m Ariel. I mean. I imagine that’s what I’d be. If I ever took the test. I wouldn’t. Obviously.)
Vanellope arrives just as some random little girl is getting told that she’s Snow White.
So kids, this is what your beloved Disney princess are doing now that their movies are over. Toiling away in a tawdry virtual sweatshop, waiting in a backroom to be summoned forth to earn a few clicks for Uncle Walt.
So Vanellope has to give some stormtroopers the slip and ends up in the Princess hutch where the other princess’ ask her questions to determine if she’s actually a princess. Which she says she is even though a) she renounced her crown at the end of Wreck it Ralph, 2) she was a queen not a princess and 3) what’s my girl Eilonwy gotta do to get some love?
Oh, but hey, did you know that a lot of the Disney Princess movies had some regressive gender politics? You did? Because you’ve got a working brain and access to oxygen? Well how about the Disney corporation just hammer the point home for like ten minutes, how’s that sound? Prepare to have your minds blown with the stunning revelation that OMG MOST DISNEY PRINCESSES DON’T HAVE MOMS.
Watching Disney try to show how woke it is by mocking the older princess movies was kinda fun when they did it in Enchanted (if you’re into that kind of thing, ya sick animal) but, guess what, that movie came out a dozen years ago. We also got it in Princess and the Frog, Frozen and Moana (Tangled more or less just got on with telling its story and didn’t bother). These tropes have been pretty thoroughly deconstructed by this point. To put it another way; this dead horse is now a fine horse powder.
Secondly, after taking all this time and expense to transcribing all the Princess designs into CGI and wrangling all the living original voice actors (with the perfectly fair exception of Mary Costa who’s probably a bit old in the tooth to be voicing the 16 year old Aurora), what do they do? How do they use this historic opportunity of uniting all of the canon Disney princesses (plus Merida) in one epic tale?
They have a slumber party and talk about clothes.
In conclusion, this is humanity’s greatest crime.
On the advice of the other Princesses, Vanellope goes and stares at a puddle until she starts hallucinating. You know. One of those puddles on the internet. The internet puddles?
This leads us into the movie’s only pre-credits song (thank God for small mercies) A Place Called Slaughter Race.
Now, I regret to inform you all that some legalistic churl has taken the footage for Am I Feeling Love? off YouTube so you’ll just have to take my word for it that, damn it, it’s no Am I Feeling Love?
Firstly, it’s Sarah Silverman singing and “Sarah Silverman singing” is a sequence of words that I’d expect to see in the Book of Revelation after the words “And Lo, I beheld…”
But let’s be honest, Idina Menzel, Jodie Benson and Paige O’Hara tackling this as a trio Supremes-style couldn’t make this musical turkey fly. Family Guy has done better parodies of Disney songs than this. Yeah, I said it.
Meanwhile, Ralph finally gets enough views to translate into enough money to buy the steering wheel but makes the mistake of reading the comments on one of his videos where he learns that everyone thinks he’s stupid and hates him as is only right and proper.
Ralph’s self-esteem then gets another blow when he tries to get in touch with Vanellope and overhears her talking to Shank about how much she wants to be part of Slaughter Race. Oh yeah. She just wants to leave her game and join another game. Which, spoiler alert, she eventually does and everyone is just cool with it. I remember a time when somebody Going Turbo would have scandalised the entire parish! Now it’s just perfectly normal. They’ll be marrying each other next, you mark my words.
Ralph is so upset by this that he goes to Spamley to ask his help in shutting Slaughter Race down. Spamley takes him to the Dark Web where a worm named Double Dan gives him an “insecurity virus” named Arthur to infect Slaughter Race with. How Arthur works is that he finds insecurities in data and then replicates them throughout the entire programme. Unfortunately, this proves catastrophic for Slaughter Race as Arthur replicates Vanellope’s glitchiness which causes the whole game to crash. Yeah, so remember when we were told that Vanellope wasn’t actually a glitch and she just seemed glitchy because King Candy tampered with her programming? No, turns out she really is a glitch.
Vanellope is furious at Ralph because he almost got her killed (fair) and throws the candy medal she made for him into a bottomless void full of relics of the internet’s past like Napster, MySpace and a version of The Onion that’s still culturally relevant.
Arthur, meanwhile, escapes from Slaughter Race and sees Ralph, who’s now 100% insecure and duplicates him over and over until he becomes a rampaging swarm of Ralphs who threaten to overrun the entire internet. Yessss rescues Ralph and Vanellope from the horde and Ralph looks down and says “Wow. From up here I can see how I come across as needy and clingy and self-destructive.”
Okay, fair’s fair. As a metaphor for how the internet amplifies people’s insecurities and turns them into rampaging narcissitic monsters this is actually pretty good. The core of RBTI is actually strong, I just wish so much of it’s running time wasn’t Disney giving itself hairy palms. Anyway, the Ralphs merge into a massive Uber-Ralph and Vanellope offers to stay with the monster if it will just stop its rampage and whatnot. But Ralph, realising that he can’t let Vanellope do that, talks to his own insecurities and gets the monster to understand that if you love someone you have to let them go and yadda yadda you know what the deal is. The monster melts away and Ralph gets rescued from certain death by all the Disney Princesses in the most overly elaborate way possible. Oh, and Ariel and Pocahontas have super-powers now whatever, I don’t even care.
And the movie ends with Ralph and Vanellope starting a new long distance friendship and Ralph assuring Felix that everything’s going to be alright.
Or will it?
My friends, I regret to tell you that everybody’s wrong. Rotten Tomatoes is wrong, the movie-going public that flocked to see it were wrong and the Academy were wrong for nominating it for Best Animated Feature. Thankfully, at least, it didn’t win because if Into the Spider-Verse had lost to this pile of crap that would have been my super-villain origin. Infuriatingly, there is a decent movie here with some actually pretty clever things to say about the internet and how we live our online lives. But it’s just buried under a pile of smug, self-congratulatory wank, asinine fanservice and instantly dated memes.
It’s not the worst movie in the canon, but it’s easily the one for which I have the most contempt.
Excellent as usual, but I’m docking a few points for re-used art assets from other movies, whatever the fuck they did to Cinderella’s design and because I feel like it and it’s my blog so there.
Ralph Breaks his Character.
On the internet, the villain is us.
Supporting Characters: 03/20
It’s like a Twilight Zone episode where you die and go to heaven and all your favourite characters are there but they’re awful and you realise oh wait, this isn’t heaven.
A Place Called Slaughter Race just pipped Lack of Education from The Fox and the Hound for my Least Favourite Disney Song (Non-Sequel Category). On the plus side, I do kinda dig Zero by Imagine Dragons. Okay. I definitely dig it. Okay, it rocks. Okay, I want it played at my funeral, happy?
The first stinger
Baby Moana (seriously, they just re-sued the character model) sits watching the movie on a tablet and complains to her mother that the movie was missing a scene that was in the trailers. Her mother suggests she plays a video game. She does, and then Ralph appears in the game and keeps feeding the bunny pancakes until it explodes like Mr Creoste, presumably scarring her for life.
And the audience went
Look, I’m as game for a good old fashioned “small child traumatised” joke as anyone but not in a DISNEY MOVIE. Jesus! This is the worst cause of misjudging the tone since Dreamworks put a prison-rape joke in Puss and Boots (oh yeah, you forgot about that, didn’t ya?).
The second stinger
The movie pretends that we’re going to see a teaser for Frozen 2 and instead we get Ralph rick-rolling us.
And the audience went:
Yeeeah. Movie, you’re assuming that after watching you I have any enthusiasm for Frozen 2 left.
Hey, was that Stan Lee?!
That was Stan Lee, as an avatar in the Oh My Disney! sequence.
Hey what’s Than…
Nah man, we’re done. We’re done.
FINAL SCORE: 38%
NEXT UPDATE: 27 June 2019
NEXT TIME: Be honest, if any US president was going to build giant killer robots, it was going to be Nixon.