If anyone knows how to oversee a brand expansion, it's Disney. Wreck-It Ralph was always primed for multi-platform success as a property - if anything, it's somewhat surprising it took them this long to make a sequel - but even then, you'd scarcely want any other studio supervising that process. After all, it's brand expansion you want, and who better than the masters of expanding and burgeoning and oversizing their properties into full-blown movie 'universes'? And herein lies the issue with Ralph Breaks the Internet. I can look past the fact that it's going to look hideously dated in a mere few short months (it even already does) - it'll look joyously retro in a mere few short years. I can look past its cliches and contrivances - a Disney animated blockbuster, these were utterly inevitable. It's the scale of the whole thing, or perhaps that of its intentions, that irks me. Not that it necessarily gets in the way of the movie's principle charms, which are modest and relationship-based, and entirely lovely. It's that all this expansion practically turns Ralph into a property only, and little else.
The obsessive in me does, admittedly, take immense nerdy pleasure in the detail of the world-building in Ralph Breaks the Internet. The movie's actualized manifestations of the virtual world are savvy and cinematically satisfying, and crucially never just there as decoration for the plot; rather, they are the plot, for the most part. If relying on gimmickry, no matter how impressive, as the driving force for your movie sounds limited, coursing through those limitations are lead characters Ralph and Vanellope, superbly voiced by John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman respectively - two of the finest character actors in American cinema. These are future classic animated characters, their relationship an instant winner, and most everything that works about the movie works through their interactions, or its pointed lack at times.
Truly, a delightful movie, but a vaguely nauseating product. The sickly sheen of corporate concern takes over Ralph Breaks the Internet like a virus intent on breaking the movie, on turning it into fodder for Disney's financial gain. And that it is, yet while one might easily convince oneself to relax and enjoy it for its bounteous delights, that they're apparently all exposed at one stage or another as ploys to transform the viewer's emotional investment into monetary investment becomes increasingly irksome, one's capacity to relax becoming commensurately drained. And it could hardly be a greater shame - creatively, this is an improvement on its already-strong predecessor, and a hugely welcome return to the world of Ralph and Vanellope. Yet while I'd relish another opportunity to return again for a new adventure, there's no escaping the fact that this whole property has soured a bit on me now. Brand successfully expanded - congratulations, Disney! Now that's quite enough of that.
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