Both Wreck-It Ralph and The LEGO Movie proved to be significant hits for their respective studios, so it was no surprise they both landed sequels, with Ralph Breaks the Internet hitting theaters at the tail end of 2018 and The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part hitting theaters worldwide just a week ago.
But aside from both films arriving tears after the originals dominated the box office, both sequels share way more in common with each than you might expect. Though Ralph (John C. Reily) explores the Internet and Emmet (Chris Pratt) heads into outer space, both films share basically the same plot, tone and lessons. At their core, they're basically the same movie, and it's weird to see two of the biggest studios in Hollywood (Disney for Wreck-It Ralph and Warner Bros. for The LEGO Movie 2) putting them out so close to one another. Great minds think alike, apparently.
Both films are the sequels to charming animated films that became massive hits, with Wreck-It Ralph was nominated for multiple awards, and The LEGO Movie was a bonafide critical and commercial smash. And while neither film quite reaches the heights of the prior entry, they still manage to be solid movies in their own right.
Both films rely on a great deal of "'90s kids" culture for references and comedy, poking fun at their parent company and some of the most famous characters they have access to. The exaggerated and petty version of the Justice League that appears in the LEGO universe is hilarious, in almost the same exact way as the Disney Princesses Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) runs into. Gandalf showing up for a cameo in The LEGO Movie 2 has the same kind of effect as Stormtroopers running around in Ralph Wrecks the Internet does: it makes the audience go, "I understand that reference." Both films get a lot of mileage out of poking fun at their respective brands, a meta approach to an increasingly accepted geek culture.
Both films share more than just a similarity in their sense of humor. Both films also introduce a new character played by Tiffany Haddish. In Ralph Breaks the Internet she's Yass, the algorithm maker for YouTube, who comes across as a "ruthless record exec." She's more than willing to use Ralph's commitment to doing anything to get him money and herself views. Once she's introduced, the audience is set up to start waiting for the twist that she's a villain. And in The LEGO Movie 2, she's an even more obvious villain. As the shape-shifting Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi of the Systar System, she even gets a villain song (thoughthat plays out more as a parody of a villain song than anything).
The films' big twists are even the same as, in the end, neither of of Haddish's characters turn out to be evil. Yass actively protects Vanellope when the Internet starts to crash, and Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi is just trying to unite the LEGO universe by marrying Batman (Will Arnett). Both films take a huge swerve at this point, revealing that it's a dark reflection of the hero that's the real villain. In Ralph Breaks the Internet, it's the desperate virus copy of Ralph that rampages through the Internet, and in The LEGO Movie 2, it's Rick Dangervest, a future version of Emmet who gave into bitter anger and traveled back in time for revenge. Both villains prove to be tougher than the heroes, but are eventually brought down by a moving speech about personal responsibility and maturity that removes the villain from existence, and as a result, both films essentially have the same climax.
That's Weird, Right?
These movies have been in development and production for years, and both of them approach their worlds with different levels of scale. The LEGO Movie 2 has a more wide-reaching scope, while Ralph Breaks the Internet is primarily focused on the relatively micro threat of the Sugar Rush arcade game needing repairs. This and the overall smaller cast allow Ralph Breaks the Internet to delve deeper into Ralph's emotional arc, an exploration The LEGO Movie 2 just doesn't have time for with Emmet.
But both films also finish the tonal arc of their stories by asking the characters -- and the audiences -- to reexamine the lessons of the previous film. Emmet learns the wrong lesson of "Everybody Can Be The Special" and assumes that he has to become tough enough to save everyone on his own. Meanwhile, Ralph learned in his previous film that just having the respect of one person is enough to make him happy. But in Ralph Breaks the Internet, his obsession with keeping Vanellope around turns toxic and damaging. Both films force their main character to reexamine themselves, and to accept the needs of others above themselves.
Both films also feature parodies of the traditional animated musical moments (the aforementioned villain song from Watevra and the I-Want-Song "Slaughter Race" by Vanellope) and fake-outs meant to mess with the audience (the false ENDING for The Lego Movie 2 and the Rick Roll moment from Ralph Breaks the Internet). They're not exactly alike, but it's incredibly strange how two massive animated films ended up becoming so similar in terms of tone, comedy and overall arc.
In theaters now, The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Nick Offerman, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Tiffany Haddish, Maya Rudolph and Stephanie Beatriz.