My daughter and husband love the movie Wreck-It Ralph, so I knew we’d be checking out the sequel, Ralph Breaks the Internet, when it hit theaters. The first film is not a favorite of mine, but between the Pancake Milkshake game and the Disney Princess teasers, I was sold. Here’s my movie review!
First things first: this isn’t a standalone movie. You have to see Wreck-It Ralph in order for the sequel to make any sense. With that note, here’s the general premise. Six years have passed since we last checked in with Ralph, Vanellope, and all our favorite characters at Litwak’s Family Fun Center and Arcade. Ralph and Vanellope have settled into a BFF routine, but Vanellope has gotten bored. Ralph’s attempt to add a little excitement to her life leads to her game breaking, and the arcade owner learns the necessary part costs more than the game console. He decides to unplug the machine and sell it for parts, leaving the characters gameless. Ralph and Vanellope decide to head to the internet through the arcade’s newly installed Wi-Fi in order to get the replacement part themselves. Upon realizing they need actual money to buy the part, they try a couple of different (and very “internet-y”) ways to earn it, exploring the internet and meeting new friends and characters along the way. And, you know, learning life lessons and stuff.
So, this was an interesting movie to review because usually, my seven-year-old daughter, my husband, and I are in agreement at the end of the film and on this one we were not! But wow, do I disagree with my daughter, and Common Sense Media on the recommended age on this movie. The kid thinks it’s appropriate for ages 7 or 8 and up, and my husband and CSM say ages 8 and up. I’d go 9, maybe 10; basically fourth grade. Obviously, there’s some fun stuff in the movie for younger kids, but:
- You have to have some understanding of what the internet is in order to understand any of what Ralph and Vanellope are doing for the bulk of the movie—and to understand the movie’s setting at all. I don’t know about you, but my daughter only has a very basic grasp of the internet based on a very limited number of websites she uses at school and the fact that we use Google to look up answers to questions together.
- Ultimately this is a movie about the ways that friendships grow and develop. It’s about how to be a good friend in a way that goes beyond what a younger child is learning (sharing, taking turns or the idea of give-and-take, learning empathy) and is more applicable to kids in their tweens and up.
- The Disney Princess scene was not a scene for little kids who love their Princesses. As this link explains, the Princess franchise has a lot of rules around it and this movie deliberately broke them. It pokes fun at them like Frozen and Moana did, but in a more overt, adult way. Depending on your kid, this could be a bit like finding out a certain fat, jolly old elf isn’t real—there’s some rubbing off of magic that happens.
- One of the settings of the movie is a game called Slaughter Race, which like Hero’s Duty in Wreck-It Ralph, is a super realistically rendered game. It’s a violent game in which people are killed, there are scenes with deliberately creepy clowns, there’s an attacking dog, there’s robbery,—you get the picture. I have no particular opinion on the existence of violent video games (other than the age restrictions should be followed), but this is one of them, and two cute charming cartoon characters are sent into it, one of whom is in grave danger during one of her visits.
- Because we know from the first movie that characters who die outside their games don’t regenerate, the characters in this film spend a lot of time in mortal danger. (And after The Princess and the Frog, I don’t trust Disney one bit when it comes to the survival of beloved characters.)
- Many children’s films contain subtle adult humor; however, my husband’s take was that the adult humor was not subtle and was likely to leave older kids asking for explanation. Like an conversation between Ralph and Vanellope about waxing.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not worried that I’ve warped my kid by taking her to see this movie, I just don’t know how much she really understood. When I asked her what the movie’s message was, she got the part before the resolution (I’m not going to give any spoilers, but it’s not really the takeaway you’d hope your kid would have). However, with a couple more questions she was able to articulate the intended message. And she enjoyed the Princesses’ role in the story, having completely missed the snark—although we’re also one of those families that focuses on the princesses’ actions and personalities, so the part where they were all ready to attack Vanellope in their dressing room, while off-brand and “shocking,” was, for her, completely in keeping with the fact that her princess dolls play with her Princess Leia action figure.
All that being said, we did all agree that it was a fun movie. (As always, when asked what she thought after the movie was over, the kid proclaimed it “Awesome!” I swear she’s never met a movie she didn’t like.) My husband felt that it started off slow—he actually said that he wasn’t aware that the movie had started and thought he was still watching a preview—but that it picked up quickly. The Princesses’ scenes were hysterical, and there were a couple of scenes that made me laugh till I cried. There were some really tear-jerking scenes, too.
Final take: Funny, touching, good lessons about friendship, provides a great teachable moment about the internet (check out Common Sense Media’s “Talk to Your Kids About… for some ideas to get you started). This is definitely not a movie for your younger kids, though, whether because they’ll be bored because they’re lost or because they’ll be scared. Stick with that 8-ish and up suggested age range. As Ralph said, “Exciting is when you smile. Scary is when you clench your butt and my butt is still clenched!”
By the way, if you are person who loves to look for Easter eggs in your movies, this movie is nothing but Easter eggs. I feel like I could buy a copy and go through it frame by frame just to examine each scene for hidden objects—and not just in the Oh My Disney scene, which is of course full to the brim with inside jokes. Be sure to stick around for the bonus scene at the end of the credits. Don’t worry, it’s not at the way, way end—just after the first song ends. Trust me, it’s worth it.