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Ralph Breaks the Internet

"Not just a Sugar Rush, but an emotional examination of friendship"

★★★★ - STUFF 

- Not much has changed in six years at Litwaks Family Fun Center.

But while getting to goof off all night long with the "coolest kid in the whole arcade" is perfect for Wreck It Ralph (John C Reilly), his constant companion Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) is experiencing something of an existential crisis.

Tired of the limited available gameplay in her racing game Sugar Rush, she longs for new adventures. But when Ralph tries to to help by carving out a new track, it ends in disaster and a broken steering wheel. It's a situation that's likely to leave her homeless as Litwaks' owner can't source a new part for the aging game without paying a prohibitive price.

However, with wi-fi having recently been installed, Ralph hatches a new plan. He'll head to the online world and try and source one from eBay. Accompanied by Vanellope, the pair excitedly engage in the auction process – with horrendous results. They now have to find $27,001 in just 24 hours, or their hopes of saving Sugar Rush will be a catastrophic failure.

Director Rich Moore's return to the gaming world he so brilliantly created in 2012's Wreck it Ralph is a sometimes uneven, but ultimately endearing and satisfying sequel.

Like the original and Moore and co-director Johnston's ZootopiaBreaks the Internet is at its delightful and inventive best in its world-building and interplay between the main characters. There's a lot to see, admire and enjoy in the animated evocation of the internet, with everything from pop-ups to the "dark net" given a Disney spin.

However, the story does seem to lose its way a little in the middle stages (perhaps the result of having six writers), as website product placement almost threatens to take over and an online racing game sequence feels like a rerun of the one central to Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One. Add in turning Ralph into an viral online star via a series of make-up tutorials and baking demonstrations and the spectre of the awful The Emoji Movielooms large.

But just as a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-esque gathering at the Oh My Disney! website threatens to truly overegg the pudding, it instead reinvigorates proceedings. Two scenes involving Vanellope and the back-catalogue of Disney princesses are a post-modern and #MeToo delight (their 2018 "casual makeovers" have to be seen to be believed), while the tale takes a left turn into surprisingly thoughtful and emotional territory – examining both male insecurities and the true nature of friendship.

With its messages of "it's okay not to share the same dream" and "don't read comments on the internet", Breaks the Internet suddenly takes on a poignancy and powerfulness to rival Pixar's Inside Out.

That's not to say it doesn't lose it's inherent humour either, whether offering up some parental advice or showcasing Silverman's singing skills on unlikely ballad A Place Called Slaughter Race.

By the end, you'll be hooked and find that, as Vanellope puns, "farting is such sweet sorrow".

- James Croot, STUFF

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