So much of the comedy of the original Wreck-It Ralph came out of nostalgic references to older videogames but the jokes worked more often than not. The potential for comedic gold is much higher in this one, you've got the internet and the whole of pop culture as your character's playground. The problem that I had with this is that the movie doesn't have either the story (more on that later) or the funny dialogue to really keep the viewer's attention (outside of the kids who may just be entertained by the references and the pretty visuals). The movie does have its share of funny moments but the only laughs I got were when the screenwriters were lampooning Disney tropes with the various Disney princesses that cameo in the movie. I will begrudgingly say that those bits were very funny, but it also felt like Disney picking at low hanging fruit when they went back to that well over and over. I'm also a sucker for meta jokes so while there were plenty of times that the movie hit the wrong comedic notes, during the parts where Disney references their own catalogue of movies, I was giggling along with the rest of the audience.
They were able to rope in a few more stars to do some of the voice work in Ralph and they're used appropriately to help bring the movie to life. John C. Reily is still charming and affable as Ralph even though the material is a little weaker this time around. Taraji P. Henson does a good job as Yesss and although their screen time is limited, bringing back Jane Lynch as Calhoun and Jack McBrayer as Felix were nice touches. Also returning is Alan Tudyk in a different role as KnowsMore and he's so good at voice acting that he could have done it in his sleep. I also enjoyed whoever played Spamly (its rumoured it was Bill Hader, but the role is uncredited) who is appropriately slimy but in a funny way. The standout for me was Sarah Silverman reprising her role as Vanellope who was great at getting across the varied emotions her character was feeling throughout the movie. The only performance that stood out to me in a negative way was Gal Gadot. I like her as an actress, but her voice doesn't have much inflection and while I'm sure she was trying, it partially led to her character coming across as a little flat for me. I also liked Jason Mantzoukas in his small part as Hey Nongman.
Getting down to what I didn't like about the movie, the story of Ralph Breaks the Internet doesn't hold water, especially against the studio's recent output. The through line of saving Sugar Rush is dropped 2/3 of the way through the movie, it relies on the oldest storytelling cliche in the book (the overheard conversation taken out of context) as a driving force for the climax of the movie and even though the message about Ralph and Vanellope's friendship is inherently sweet, the movie bungles it through clunky dialogue and a nonsensical ending (I get its a kids movie, but how the movie describes the inner workings of the internet left me shaking my head). I would never say the original film's plot was a wonder of storytelling, but they did a much better job of building up the stakes and the drama in the story. This movie was admittedly more about being a light and breezy couple of hours at the movies, but it felt closer to being some various skits involving famous online properties or services on the Internet instead of there being a story to tell. I also thought the pacing was pretty poor. I was happy they got into the internet quicker than I had expected but once they get there, there are scenes where the movie drags badly. I heard more than a couple of people behind me complaining about how long the movie was and how it dragged in the middle when I was leaving the theatre.
Maybe I'm going to come across as a nitpicker for this review, but I left the theatre disappointed after having seen this movie. It never fell into being a complete wreck (pun intended) but it didn't have the same creative spark the first one did. You've got all the visual tricks and your favourite returning characters to help the movie reach its target audience. But the slack pacing, the absence of the funny dialogue (outside of cameos and references) and the lack of a decent story brought the grade down considerably for Ralph Breaks the Internet. I might be the outlier here but between this and the original Wreck-It Ralph, its a clear victory for the original. I still think kids will get a kick out of this however and I liked it enough to grade it as a 6.5/10 rounding up to a 7/10.