When you become a parent, the natural expectation is some softening will occur. Part of it can be attributed to the emotionally vulnerable state most are in because of a prolonged period of sleeplessness. Parents are a moment away from an outpouring of laughter, tears or plumbing previously unexplored depths of unimaginable love. I assumed at some point this softening would extend into all areas of my life—my general cynical nature might be sanded down and things that irritated me in the past might seem harmless or inoffensive. In fact, the opposite has happened.
Our old friend Wreck It Ralph broke the internet and my spirit. He showed me evils that exist in the world, by collecting everything absolutely terrible about movies, corporate greed and marketing into one heinous piece of epic brainwashing. I felt like Al Pacino in the third act of “Scent of a Woman,” screaming at the top of my lungs about taking a flamethrower to a supposedly righteous institution.
Disney is the devil—a soulless, franchise factory-making, making formulaic garbage for people to regularly consume. Sometimes garbage is tasty, i.e. a few of their Marvel movies. Other times, it’s moldy, bitter refuse, like their attempts at relaunching “Star Wars.” Sure, viewers may enjoy the garbage they’re fed, but that doesn’t mean they’re not feasting on a fecal footlong.
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a 90-minute Disney advertisement. It’s also a movie to convince children the internet (and all the commerce associated with it) is a good thing. In this day and age, wherein we hear about privacy abuses from Facebook, employee abuse from Amazon and Google, deciding the mantra of “never be evil” isn’t as important as launching a search engine in China, seeing cute, inoffensive portrayals of corporate Goliaths felt unintentionally hilarious and frightening. Foreign governments are using Twitter to help swing elections by spreading misinformation, but through the Disney lens, it’s just a bunch of sweet little birds chirping messages back and forth in a big ol’ tree. See, kids, the internet isn’t all bad. It’s not like it’s completely crippling the world and emboldening idiots. Nope, just a harmless fun place where people can find out things and buy cool stuff.
The film doesn’t have a story as much as a painfully predictable thread to get the movie from one pained reference to another. Penelope (Sarah Silverman) is in danger of losing her game after the well-meaning Ralph (John C. Reilly) accidentally causes her arcade game home to be damaged. They have to get on the internet to find and purchase a replacement part or risk total deletion.
Their journey sees Penelope begin to question the very point of her existence. Is there more to her life than the predefined tracks of Sugar Rush, or is there a more exciting challenge waiting for her on the World Wide Web?
There’s a kernel of a good idea here. Virtual characters questioning their purpose is the kind of existential conflict I can get behind. But this is a movie aimed at kids and needed to promote brand loyalty. There’s so much Disney packed into it: stormtroopers, Marvel characters, Disney princesses, and enough pop-culture references to make you groan in disgust.
This movie made my skin crawl. I was irritated while watching it, feeling like Malcolm Mcdowell having my eyes pried open to force down a brain-wiping snuff film. If I had the power, I’d destroy every digital print of this dystopian, Orwellian brainwashing piece. The term “cash grab” gets thrown around a lot these days, but no film has ever so perfectly lived up to such a moniker.
At least uninspired animated sequels like “The Incredibles 2” or “Finding Dory” don’t insult my intelligence. I can call a movie like “Toy Story 3” “harmless” because the core values of the film are still rooted in simple entertainment. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is digital brain cancer—a computer-generated tragedy of corporate synergy that should have the computers that created it doused in hydrochloric acid and gasoline and burned into a pile of toxic ash.
No child should have to sit through this kind of marketing malfeasance posing as a movie. Our kids deserve better than a weaponized ode to corporate branding and mediocrity. Fuck this movie right in Mickey’s oversized ears.