GAME NOT OVER IN

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Film - Re­view: Jake Coyle AP Film Writer Im­ages: Dis­ney via AP

In a bat­tle be­tween the in­ter­net and John C. Reilly, who among us wouldn’t root for the lat­ter? Leave us IMDb.com and a few pod­casts, John, but by all means, go smashy-smashy with the rest. Hav­ing lib­er­ated ar­cade game char­ac­ters from their rigidly or­dained roles in 2012’s “Wreck-it Ralph,” its se­quel, “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net,” sends our charm­ingly lop­sided duo — the hulk­ing, big-fisted Ralph (Reilly) and the glitchy pip­squeak candy-col­ored racer Vanel­lope von Sch­weetz (Sarah Sil­ver­man) — into that ex­pan­sive nether­world where click­bait lurks and pop-ups pro­lif­er­ate. For a pair of pix­e­lated be­ings whose ex­is­tence has hereto­fore been lim­ited to a hand­ful of video games, they’re de­cid­edly not in Kansas any­more. The web of “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net” is a strictly PG-rated, san­i­tized ver­sion; there are no dark turns down 4chan al­leys or face-to-faces with In­fowars con­spir­a­cies. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cruel truths that Ralph must con­front in cy­berspace — none more than when a crest­fallen Ralph sees the re­sponses to his pop­u­lar vi­ral video. Never read the com­ments. In trad­ing Qbert jokes for eBay ones, “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net,” di­rected by Rich Moore and Phil John­ston, does more than shift the puns. If “Wreck-it Ralph” was a nos­tal­gic “Toy Story”-like trip into ‘80s ar­cade games, “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net” is more cur­rent. It’s ul­ti­mately about male-con­trol­ling im­pulses run amok. Life in­side the ar­cade has got­ten repet­i­tive for Vanel­lope, who’s tired of win­ning the same old rain­bow-col­ored races in her game, Sugar Rush. But while the video-game char­ac­ters are con­ven­ing in their Grand Cen­tral-like ter­mi­nal, a new plug la­beled “WiFi” ar­rives above. “It’s

ei­ther Wif­fle ball or an ar­ranged mar­riage,” says Ralph. Soon af­ter, the im­pend­ing un­plug­ging of Sugar Rush (due to a mal­func­tion) prompts a kind of mi­grant cri­sis. All of the game’s char­ac­ters flee be­fore they get trapped in the shut­down and need new, adop­tive homes. Vanel­lope crashes with Ralph, but he can see his friend — and their friend­ship is in­deed en­dear­ing — is feel­ing lost. Ralph re­solves to jour­ney into the in­ter­net to pur­chase the re­place­ment part that will save Vanel­lope’s game. Crawl­ing through the router, they speed through op­ti­cal ca­bles and ar­rive in an in­fi­nite, glit­ter­ing cityscape pop­u­lated by tow­ers of tech (Ama­zon, Google) and byzan­tine by­ways of zip­ping dig­i­tal avatars. It’s an ide­al­ized vi­sion of the in­ter­net. There are no trolling Rus­sian bots here, just some dis­tract­ing ads and a quite charm­ing, be­spec­ta­cled search en­gine (voiced by Alan Tudyk) that will try to fin­ish ev­ery sen­tence. The pair’s ini­tial plans prove more com­pli­cated once they dis­cover the on­line world isn’t just a game, but a place dic­tated by real money. To raise the money, Ralph quickly turns video star, churn­ing out meme-in­spired videos with the help of a Buz­ztube ex­ec­u­tive (Taraji P. Hen­son). Many, es­pe­cially those in news­rooms, will watch with jeal­ousy at just how quickly Ralph is able to mon­e­tize clicks. There are other ad­ven­tures, too. Vanel­lope finds a far grim­ier, “Grand Theft Auto”-like rac­ing game called Slaugh­ter Race, a realm presided over by a stylish driver voiced by Gal Gadot. It’s hardly the kind of game that any­one would imag­ine a good fit for a petite pony­tailed pixie. But she thrills to the more grown-up rac­ing world, ea­ger to test her skills. On­line, you can find your niche. Other cy­ber doors are less ap­peal­ing. In one self-ref­er­en­tial di­ver­sion, Vanel­lope walks into a room of Dis­ney princesses. Jas­mine, Moana, Cin­derella, Ariel, Snow White, Belle and oth­ers are sit­ting around, wait­ing to par­tic­i­pate in an on­line quiz: “Which Dis­ney princess are you?” They all speak a lit­tle sim­i­larly (and they note, none have moth­ers) in a segue of self-dep­re­ca­tion for Dis­ney that’s both a wel­come gag and, for the me­dia be­he­moth, false mod­esty. There’s much that’s clever in “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net,” but it’s the film’s heart — thanks to Reilly and Sil­ver­man’s voice work and easy rap­port — that has made them more than a whiz-bang graph­i­cal blast. These are frag­ile and sen­si­tive pro­tag­o­nists try­ing to be them­selves in a world of pop-cul­ture-pre­scribed roles. In “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net,” it’s Ralph who has to do some soul-search­ing. The movie isn’t al­ways quite up to the task. It would be bet­ter if it went fur­ther and wres­tled more with the on­line world than used it as an­other bits and bytes back­ground. Re­ally, it doesn’t quite live up to the ti­tle. Ralph could have done more dam­age.

A scene from “Ralph Breaks the In­ter­net.”

From left: eBay Elayne, voiced by Re­becca Wisocky, Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly and Vanel­lope von Sch­weetz, voiced by Sarah Sil­ver­man.

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