Mission Lab

REVIEW: ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ has heart … and great messages

November 22nd, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ has heart … and great messages

Ralph is a big guy with a big heart. Oh, sure, he has massive arms and a chest the size of a small car, but deep inside he’s a tender guy who only wants love – specifically from his best friend Vanellope.    

Ralph and Vanellope are video game characters who live behind the wall of Litwak’s Family Fun Center, an arcade that boasts video games from the past and present. Ralph’s day job is within the video game “Tapper,” while Vanellope works inside the game “Sugar Rush” as a racecar driver.

When a customer inserts a quarter, Ralph and Vanellope get to work, making sure the game goes as expected. Most of the time, the game goes as planned, but sometimes – as happened recently -- things can go haywire.

The problem started when a wild-driving Vanellope veered off the racetrack. The customer then accidentally broke the steering wheel, rendering the Sugar Rush unit useless. To make matters worse, the Litwak’s Family Fun Center owner decided to junk the game instead of fixing it.

That’s OK, though, because Ralph has a solution. He and Vanellope will search the Internet, find a replacement steering wheel, and give the unit new life. And they’ll remain friends forever. Right?

The Disney movie Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG) opens this week, telling the story of two people who literally travel the information superhighway – through the modem and the phone line – to try and salvage a friendship and career. It is a sequel to the 2012 film Wreck-It Ralph and stars John C. Reilly (Wreck-It Ralph, Guardians of the Galaxy) as Ralph, Sarah Silverman (Wreck-It Ralph) as Vanellope, Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) as an algorithm character named Yesss, and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) as the video game character Shank.

The movie is fun, funny and family-friendly, as it gives children a lesson not only on the ins and outs of the Internet but also its many perils. When Ralph and Vanellope enter the Internet – which looks like a megacity -- they experience the same emotions we all felt when we first logged on. They’re amazed and a little intimated. They see big bright skyscrapers (that’s Amazon, Facebook and YouTube), annoying, chatty people (those are pop-up ads), and a smart, fast-talking man who knows everything (he’s the search engine – a man named KnowsMore).

Their goal is to find eBay, which supposedly has the steering wheel they need.

Many of our favorite Disney/Star Wars/Marvel characters also make an appearance, including R2-D2, C-3PO, baby Groot, and nearly every princess in the Disney realm.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Minimal. For sensitive children, the most disturbing part of the movie takes place within a video game known as Slaughter Race, which has a dystopian city landscape; cars race down abandoned streets that are ruled by a woman named Shank and her friends. Questionable-looking characters live here. Later, Ralph and Vanellope enter a dark, underground region where a grotesque Jabba the Hut-looking creature lives. (He has a brother who “lives” in his chest – sort of like a conjoined twin.) The film concludes with Ralph and Vanellope battling a giant (mostly friendly) monster.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. A male body building character wears speedos. Vanellope sees the word “lingerie” in the Internet world and mispronounces it. A pop-up ad man promotes a website with “sassy housewives.” Yess wears a belly-revealing outfit. If you’re curious, Ralph and Vanellope are not boyfriend/girlfriend; they’re just good friends.

Coarse Language

None. We hear butt (4), gosh (3), heck (1) and “good L-rd” (1).

Other Positive Elements

After her video game breaks, Vanellope rebuffs Ralph’s suggestion to be lazy and not work. Ralph and Vanellope truly care for one another as friends. The film has a touching finale.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

We hear burping at a (root beer) bar, which is treated like a real-world bar (without the drunkenness.) A character jokes about “serious duty.” Ralph and Vanellope twice lie to get their way; they get caught once. They steal a car and are caught. Ralph enters the comments section of a website and reads comments from Internet bullies (such as: “what a useless loser.”).

Life Lessons

The film gives us lessons on working hard (Vanellope), friendship and dedication (Ralph and Vanellope), the perils of the Internet, and forgiveness and reconciliation (Ralph and Vanellope).

Worldview

Adults spend an average of 11 hours each day interacting with media, according to a Nielsen report released this year. That number includes television, smartphones, tablets and computers. Nearly two hours of that is spent on social media, according to a separate study by the marketing agency Mediakix.

Ralph Breaks the Internet ridicules our addiction. We see Ralph record silly videos (eating hot peppers, for example) in hopes of going viral and earning money for the steering wheel. We then see adults in the real world – including at their work cubicles -- watching them.

This Internet addiction, of course, has a cost. It takes time away from the more important things of life, including our time with God (Psalm 46:10).

But the primary theme of Ralph Breaks the Internet involves friendship and trust. Vanellope wants to move away from Ralph and work at Sugar Rush. Ralph, though, believes she’s abandoning him and ending the friendship. The central question becomes: Can Ralph and Vanellope remain friends but have different interests? How can they remain friends when their lives change? Those are questions that can spark a discussion with children on the ride home.

What I Liked

The Stars Wars characters. The Internet world, with its zany figures. The messages are great, too.  

What I Didn’t Like

A joke about lingerie doesn’t belong in a children’s film. Many kids will ask uncomfortable questions.    

Sponsors

McDonald’s is a sponsor. Get ready for Happy Meals with a Ralph Breaks the Internet theme.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why did Ralph not trust Vanellope? What helped them heal their division?
  2. Can friends have different interests? Can they remain friends when life changes? Have either of those things ever happened to you?
  3. Is the Internet a good or a bad thing? Name 3 good things about the Internet. Name 3 bad things.
  4. How do we know if we’re addicted to the Internet and social media? Name 3 ways (such as a device-free dinner) that we can ensure we’re not spending too much time on the web.
  5. Why do people act differently on the Internet than they do in real life? Have you ever experienced Internet bullying?

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG for some action and rude humor.