Bad Things For Sweet Reasons
One of the main themes of the film is the recognition that change, while potentially painful, is a good thing. Vanellope loves being a racer, but she’s become bored with her routine. It’s not that she dislikes it by any stretch of the imagination, but at her core is a yearning for something new. She wants to race on tracks she’s never seen before. She wants to try and grow as a racer. Ultimately, she wants something different.
However, since the first film ended with Ralph basing so much of his self-worth on Vanellope and her feelings about him, he can’t handle such a revelation. He can see the excitement on her face when they enter the intense and challenging Slaughter Race, but he’s hesitant to let her go be herself. He convinces himself that she just wants the same things that he always wants, and that if she disagrees, he just needs to show her the light.
That dedication to a world that only he sees as paradise leads him to unleashing a self-replicating virus onto Slaughter Race, which accidentally crashes the game and almost gets Vanellope killed. When Vanellope finds out what he did, her anger is completely justified.
The virus, fueled by Ralph’s “insecurity,” quickly spreads around the internet, laying waste to anything in its path. All it wants is for Vanellope to be its best friend forever, regardless of the damage it does to the world or her. It's Ralph's worst side, personified as a giant, and it's not exactly subtle.
Words, Not Fists
The arc comes full circle when Ralph battles the… well, other Ralph to save Vanellope. Although he puts up a good fight (using the Pinterest pin as a club is pretty great), he just can’t punch his way out of this one. What ultimately stops the monster is words.
Ralph recognizes what he’s done, and the pain he’s caused. He also finally comprehends that it’s not all about what he wants. If he really is Vanellope’s friend, he should be supportive of her wants too. It’s a tender moment that saves the day, and a recognition of his own shortcomings.
Ralph essentially talks himself down from making a terrible mistake, and saves the internet (and Vanellope) as a result. The film ends on a bittersweet note, with Vanellope in Slaughter Race and happy, and Ralph learning how to be okay with that. It’s a difficult but necessary lesson for Ralph (and the audience) to learn, one that is tackled wonderfully throughout the film.
Directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnson, Ralph Breaks the Internet arrives in theaters Nov. 21. The film features the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Taraji P. Henson, Gal Gadot, Jane Lynch, Ed O’Neill and almost every Disney Princess voice recorded.