Movie 57: Ralph Breaks the Internet (Spoilers)

(This is the podcast Stanford and I did on the film and we were on the same page with it)

Anyone who has followed this blog since its start knows I am not as high on Wreck-It Ralph as most of the Disney fandom is. I think it is a harmless movie but not one of the greats as I often hear claimed. It gets stuck in Sugar Rush too long and the plot becomes fairly pedestrian. Naturally I was very worried when I heard they were making a rare canon sequel (only 2nd non-package film sequel) and even more concerned when it was all going to be online.

One of my issues with the original is it doesn’t fulfill the promise it makes to explore the arcade and see lots of worlds. Now for the sequel, they would be leaving the arcade all together for the internet? This seemed like a terrible idea and my worries grew stronger when I saw the Princess clip at D23 in 2017. I was also worried that the humor would be too Shrekian and based on parody as opposed to satire and story-based.

However, I always go into any film with an open mind, hoping to be dazzled, and fortunately my worries were relieved. I can confidently say that Ralph Breaks the Internet is a complete delight and better than its predecessor in nearly every way.

In the  original film you have a story of a bad guy wanting to be good, which is fun, but it gets kind of lost in the shenanigans of Sugar Rush. Vanellope’s underdog story becomes more of the focus with a villain reveal that is very predictable (especially now when we’ve seen that trope so many times by Disney and Pixar).

The story in Ralph Breaks the Internet is a lot more subtle and nuanced. Ralph and Vanellope are friends and they love each other but that doesn’t mean they are the same. Vanellope yearns for newness and a chance to get out of Sugar Rush. On the other hand, Ralph likes things to stay the same, day in and day out. This is a conflict I can easily relate to as I am a same stuff  kind of girl. I could eat the same things, wear the same clothes, do the same activities each day and be perfectly fine. I guess this is why I’m fine watching 95 Hallmark movies a year or reviewing 35 versions of A Christmas Carol. It’s just how my brain works. I related to this division between Vanellope and Ralph. You still love each other but you process the world differently.

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As is easy to do, Vanellope and Ralph deny these differences for a long time not wanting to hurt the others feelings. Then a crisis happens in Vanellope’s game that forces them to go online to try and buy a steering wheel on Ebay. This pushes them to acknowledge their differences and learn to love each other in a new way. I found this much more moving and nuanced than the lesson of the original film. It’s easy to love someone who is the same as you. It takes a lot more work to love someone differences and all (in fact love them more because of those differences).

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As is always the case with comedy, I suspect the humor will be the most divisive part of the Ralph Breaks the Internet. I actually ended up loving it. My worry was that the jokes would be parody and not part of the story but to my pleasure almost every joke is story-based. Whether it is Spamly or KnowsMore giving them directions or the Princesses helping Vanellope with her conflict with Ralph the humor was all part of moving the characters forward as opposed to just throw-away parody jokes.

While I still don’t love the kidnapped and enslaved joke in the princess scene, most of the other humor worked for me. I was particularly happy to see Ariel be lovingly showcased. She is kind of the leader of the girls and got most of the best laughs. There is even an Alan Menken song towards the end, which was a real treat! If you like the humor in Enchanted or Elf you will really enjoy this.

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I also really enjoyed the scenes in Slaughter Race. The racing sequences were incredibly animated. The only ones better I can think of is from Cars 3. Gal Gadot does a good job playing the leader Shank and her bond with Vanellope is really sweet. They reminded me of the roughians and thugs from Tangled– rough on the outside but sweet on the inside. As she experiences this freer style of racing Vanellope realizes this is where she belongs, but she knows it will hurt Ralph to admit this. This is conflict I can relate to and that most people have experienced as they try and navigate long-term friendships.

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While Vanellope is in Slaughter Race, Ralph gets an education on youtube. I loved the way they animated the users of the internet. It wasn’t cynical like The Emoji Movie. Most of the time the users were having a nice time and enjoying their time in whatever website was being portrayed. As things broke down they were upset but not as cynical as The Emoji Movie where the kids couldn’t communicate at all without their phones. ralph breaks 6Ralph meets a woman named Yesss who is an algorithm for determining trending videos. I related to all of this youtube (buzztube in the movie) as I am a youtuber. It showcased the highs and lows the medium offers. Ralph gets very excited as his gimmicky but harmless videos make enough money to purchase the steering wheel but then is hurt when he reads the comments and realizes he is a joke. Yesss tells him to never read the comments. While I am small and most of my comments are friendly, I can certainly relate to the toxic side. No matter how strong you are it can still sometimes sting. I appreciate the nuanced and balanced look at the internet Ralph Breaks the Internet showed.

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I am hearing the ending is divisive but it worked great for me. Ralph is a character very resistant to change. He is giving into his fears and the virus he purchases magnifies those fears. As someone who is also resistant to change, I related to it. These are flawed characters who grow and learn. Isn’t that what we want in scripts? Plus, the tension and conflict was broken up by lots of humor, so it all worked for me. When Ralph and Vanellope learn to accept each other for who they are and come to a new deeper friendship I found it moving and a lovely growth arc for both characters.

It almost goes without saying that the animation is phenomenal. Unlike the original film where we spend 45 minutes in Sugar Rush, here we are zipped around to many different worlds and sites. I loved all of the world building and like I said the racing sequences were amazing! The voice work was also delightful. John C Reilly does a great job with Ralph. Sarah Silverman still isn’t my favorite but she’s servicable in this. I loved Gal Gadot and supporting voice work was all great including all the living princess actors (even Paige O’hara who had aged out of her role was brought back!).

Some may wish for more time with Felix and Calhoun but what we got from them was hilarious so I was satisfied. I even liked the post credits scene which played up on audience expectations and was very funny. I loved Ralph Breaks the Internet. It spoke to me more than the original. It had a more nuanced and powerful message. It was a lot funnier and the animation was better. (It even had a princess song!). I am seeing some mixed reactions from fans of the original, which is to be expected but I can only speak for myself and I thought it was a complete delight!

I never thought I would be saying this but I’d even be up for a 3rd installment!

smile worthy

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Talking Disney Episodes 1-4

Hey guys! I just wanted to let you know real quick that I have started a new podcast with  my friend Stanford. Each month we are selecting a Disney Canon film to talk about and give our analysis of its strengths and weaknesses. We just published our 4th entry in this podcast, and I’m proud of every last one of them. We are doing them in a random order to avoid the dead periods of a chronological rewatch. I would love your feedback as we are continually trying to improve. They are also available on Itunes and youtube at Rachel’s Reviews.

  1. Talking Cinderella

2. Talking The Great Mouse Detective- we had some technical difficulties in the last 20 minutes that impacted the sound quality but hopefully it is listenable

3. Talking Lady and the Tramp

4. Talking The Jungle Book

Disney Canon Youtube Reviews Finished!

Hey guys! I just wanted to quickly share something with you. Last week I finished my 56 week project of reviewing the Disney Canon on my youtube channel. I’m really proud of each of these videos and it was interesting to see how some opinions changed on rewatch:

Give the videos a watch and I would love to have your feedback.  Thanks!

Talking Hunchback of Notre Dame

Recently over on my youtube I posted my Disney canon review of Hunchback of Notre Dame. My friend Christine mentioned it is her favorite Disney movie so she agreed to join me and discuss the film. I thought it was a cool experience to see both sides of a polarizing movie without things getting mean like so often happens online (see it can be done folks!). I had a great time and think you guys will like this video. Check it out!

Moana Teaser Trailer Review

Aloha! Let’s all be honest- today has been pretty sad. I think we all needed the Moana teaser to cheer us up just a little it. For some strange reason Disney took it down but here it is if you haven’t seen it yet:

You will probably recall a few days ago I wasn’t that bowled over by the Beauty and the Beast teaser everyone went nuts over.  To me it was shots of the sets with music. I still don’t get the big hubbub on that one.

Moana, on the other hand, is a trailer I can get behind! It starts out with our introduction to Maui who is a demigod with a magic hook that can take down the moon and raise islands from the sea!

moana trailer1Then we meet Maui voiced by Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson, and boy does he seem like a cheerful dude! And what I loved is his tattoos move and he talks to them!

maona trailer2Then he does a traditional Polynesian yell and some of the pounding type dancing they do there.

maona trailer3We then get Maui looking straight into the camera. It made me wonder if we will get some 4th wall breaking because going into it I was thinking Maui would be like Gusteau in Ratatouille but it looks like he will be narrating to us, the audience, as well.

moana trailer4Then we get the hilarious deadpan reaction from Moana and her pig. I think this says a lot about her personality. I bet she will be kind of sarcastic and funny. Plus, she is beautiful and that pig is so cute!

moana trailer5Next we get a little bit of the music and it feels like a neat riff on Polynesian melodies. I really like the song! And then we see Moana with the ocean behind her- gorgeous! I love that she looks a little bit more natural in size and appearance than some other Disney princesses.

moana trailer6And then we see Moana throwing a spear at something, so clearly she won’t be a shrinking violet. Love that!

moana trailer7Next we see Moana’s power over the ocean and how it moves away from her. I find this power intriguing but also the ocean beautiful and green.

moana trailer8Then there are large waves and a houseboat full of people crashes over them. According to one of my friends on twitter this is a traditional boat used in that part of the world.

moana trailer10And then we see dolphins! So pretty!

moana trailer11And finally we are back to Maui and we see him turn into a bird.

moana trailer12Now that’s how you do a teaser! We saw a lot of Moana and Maui. We got to see real visuals to give an idea of the story and style. We got to hear the great music and see a tease at both the sweetness and action of the film.

I’m thrilled with this teaser and my anticipation for Moana is now through the roof but it was already my most anticipated of the year!

What about you? What did you think of the teaser and are you excited for Moana?

Animated vs Burton Alice in Wonderland

Many of you know I am doing a Disney Canon rewatch over on my youtube channel.  I’ve honestly been surprised how different my experience has been with several films- with my either looking more highly or slightly down on films from my 2014 watch.  I mean there are very few Disney films I don’t like on some level, so I suppose degrees of liking will vary depending on mood/situation.

Anyway, I am up to week 13 which means Alice in Wonderland.  I love Alice in Wonderland and it ended up at #11 in my original Disney Canon ranking.  This time it could end up even higher.  What struck me on this watch is how it is nonsense but nonsense with a purpose.  Alice says she thinks the world would be better if it was nonsense and all books had pictures, right was left, up was down etc.  So when she gets to Wonderland she experiences her vision of what she thinks will be better and it turns out it isn’t.  There’s something interesting there.  How often in life do we think another world/lifestyle would be better but if we walked around in our dream world it might not be so great?

Alice’s journey is non-linear as far as plot.  She meets one character and experiences their version of nonsense.  Whether it is an insane tea party, an angry Queen of Hearts or a blubbering philosophizing caterpillar.  Some people don’t like that lack of structure but I love it.

I actually just read the book for the first time and posted a review on my other blog.  I loved the book as well.  It’s funny, endearing and magical. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2016/03/29/teaser-tuesday-alice-in-wonderland/

The voice cast here may be the best in Disney history and the artwork from Mary Blair and team is geometric and rich in detail.  I love it.

So here is my youtube review of the Animated Alice.

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Now let’s talk about the 2010 Tim Burton version.  I did not like this movie when it came out in the theater but I knew I needed to rewatch it for the upcoming sequel so I tried to go in with an open mind….and boy do I still dislike this movie.

First of all, it entirely gets the purpose of Alice in Wonderland wrong.  She thinks that nonsense is better and she gets a chance to confront that belief.  In this version she is escaping a stuffy proposal because she’s a free spirit. Groan…They keep saying in the film it is her dream but what proof have we gotten of that in the real life segment?  And who dreams of these things?  It makes sense for Alice in the animated film to dream of a world of nonsense but who dreams of prophecies, battles, apocalyptic death and destruction?   That makes no sense where an angry version of nonsense does make sense.

Even if you accept a different purpose for the story, the purpose that they chose is incredibly generic and boring.  Alice is the chosen one we’ve seen in a million other movies who is prophesied to save Wonderland…oh excuse me Underland (gag me).  I mean how many movies from Twilight, Harry Potter, Narnia, Hunger Games do we see this story arc.  What they’ve done is take a bright unusual story and turn it into the most milk toast of stories.

Now about the visuals.  This film won Oscars for visual effects and costumes but to me it looks extremely flat and one-note.  Everything is gray and brown and a lot of it can feel quite garish and gross (how about the mote of heads…). I can see why they are pleasing to some palates but to me it is completely bland and seen it a million times. To me it is remarkable that Mary Blair with essentially black backgrounds gets more creativity and better world building in the animated film than all of this 2010 version accomplishes.

Then we have the performances and characters. Mia Wasikowska is completely generic and boring as Alice.  What is great about Kathryn Beaumont is she seems to have the personality of both a grown up and a child. Here she is a free spirited independent girl- yawn!

As far as the other performances, they don’t realize that in the animated film these characters are on screen very briefly so they don’t ware out their welcome.  Here Johnny Depp as the marose Mad Hatter is very annoying and nobody should want to hear Helena Bonham Carter shrieking for a nearly 2 hour movie.  It’s just awful. The one stand out for me is Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar who is perfect for the part.

I know a lot of people like this film but I really hate it.  On the rewatch I honestly dislike it just as much as Maleficent.  Just not for me I guess.

Here is my video review of 2010 Alice in Wonderland

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I know that is throwing a lot at you guys in one post but I would love to hear your thoughts on either film.  Thanks so much! And if you like my videos please give them a thumbs up and subscribe because each Wednesday I post my Disney Canon reviews. Next up Peter Pan.

Movie 55: Zootopia

zootopia posterIt’s kind of crazy I haven’t done a Disney Canon review since November 7, 2014!  Of course last year there was no Disney Canon film so that caused the delay.  In return for the delay, we get 2 Canon films this year with Zootopia and Moana.  And my friends, I will start the hyperbole early because if Moana is half as good as Zootopia, than I propose 2016 is the greatest year ever for Walt Disney Animated Studios. Yep, I really believe that is true.

Zootopia is a real gem, a special film that lives up to the all the hype.

Now I was not initially sold on Zootopia. I didn’t love the first 2 trailers and then the 3rd trailer I worried showed too much.  I was also nervous because the previous anthropomorphic film, Chicken Little, is one of my least favorites- relying too much on puns and a strange combination of 3 stories in 1 with a mean-spirited tone.

Fortunately, I can happily inform all of you my fears were unfounded.  I know all film is subjective, but I would be surprised if every last moviegoer doesn’t find something to love about this movie.  It just seemed to have it all.

I will only tell you a brief summary so no worry about spoilers

zootopia1Zootopia exists in an anthropomorphic world where animals have evolved past their original predator and prey natures and live in harmony- particularly in the more evolved big city.  Little Judy Hopps grows up in the country and hears the stories of Zootopia a city where ‘anyone can do anything’.

She decides as  young bunny to become a police officer and to her parents chagrin get a job on the force under Chief Bogo.  Judy is part of an affirmative action type program promoting minorities within the force.  You see, all of the other officers are predators (lions, bears, elephants etc).  Chief Bogo has no time for this bunny and assigns her to parking duty.

zootopia100As a meter maid she meets a fox Nick Wilde who is a sly con artist.  Through various turn of events her and Nick get involved in a case involving missing mammals.  Chief Bogo gives Judy 48 hours to solve the case or it is back to parking duty.

zootopia15That’s all I will say about the story because I want it to be a surprise.   (I will do a full spoiler review later on like I did with Inside Out).

Going into Zootopia, I thought it was going to be a straight on comedy but like The Lego Movie it manages to weave together emotion, humor and beautiful visuals all together in a very entertaining film.  But perhaps even more effectively than Lego, is the message at the heart of the film.  Zootopia has the potential to change perspectives of children and families.

zootopia trailer2-2I certainly can’t think of any other Disney Canon film that tackles such topics as diversity, tolerance, hatred, racism, bullying, fear, and more with so much skill and power.  I can imagine families all over the world talking about the way Judy is treated and marginalized and the way people use fear to control and justify hate.  It’s really quite remarkable.

Yet the film never becomes preachy.  This is not a Fern Gully or even a Fox and the Hound.  This is because all of the characters have these fears and prejudices and are also victims of them at different points in the story.  This makes great characters without a bad corporate greedy guy villain like in The Lorax (boy what a contrast that movie is with this!).

zootopia trailer2-3It also weaves the message within the case and Judy’s journey to never give up on her dreams. It never felt heavy handed or like a message movie to me, which was refreshing.

It’s remarkable how likable and endearing the characters are.  I loved Judy Hopps and her underdog spirit so much (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin).  Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman, is slick, sarcastic but sweet in his own way.  They are such a great combo. You can tell that they did voice work together (not common in animation) because the chemistry is there!

The other characters are great.  Idris Elba, JK Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate and more are used effectively and unlike most say Dreamworks cast do not feel there for only celebrity-sake.   Perhaps the only unnecessary star is Shakira as a pop singer Gazelle but she is in the movie very briefly.

zootopia1000While Zootopia wasn’t the uproarious comedy I was expecting, there are some good jokes. I definitely laughed a fair amount.  Disney is even willing to poke fun at itself.  For example, there are 2 Frozen jokes that made me chuckle.

I was worried the movie might feel too generic with its buddy cop elements but it really doesn’t.  The setting is so different with unique worlds like Tundratown, Rain Forrest District and Bunnyburrow that it helps keep it fresh.  And to be honest, I don’t really mind a familiar plot if everything else is engaging and working and this was.

It’s hard to compare Zootopia to Frozen and Tangled.  I will leave those comparisons for Moana, but I do think it is better than Big Hero 6 and Wreck-it Ralph, despite those being strong films in their own way.

zootopia sloth2And I don’t want to undersell Zootopia’s stunning visuals.  The world building is remarkable and full of surprises.  I loved all the character designs and how they kept everything to scale like real animals.  Judy is a bunny so of course she is way smaller than the bears and lions.  That was brilliant.

It’s funny, sweet, with 2 wonderful lead characters kids and adults will be able to relate with.  There are jokes for adults like Godfather references and things like that but nothing too tawdry.

And then it adds to all of those strengths with an amazing message about fear and discrimination that was perfectly executed.

zootopia trailer2-8Aside from Shakira not needing to be there, the only ‘negative’ is for kids under 4 there are some scary scenes and moments of peril. But if they can handle scary moments in other Disney titles like Big Hero 6 or even Aladdin they will be fine.  Some may find the way the case plays out a little predictable but I enjoyed it.  zootopia trailer2-4Congrats to Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush for a fantastic job. Oh and tremendous score from Michael Giacchino as well.  What a great movie.  I can’t wait to see it again this weekend!

Overall Grade- Definitely gets an A+

Have you seen Zootopia?  What did you think?  Put in the comments section below.  Thanks!

Here’s my youtube review:

Ranking Official Disney Princesses

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So we have 2 weeks till Big Hero 6 premiere and I will post my Frozen review this weekend (I intend to watch it 5 or 6 times to do a very good job)

In the next 2 weeks I will also be posting lots of top 10 lists culminating in my complete rankings once I see Big Hero 6.  This should be a lot of fun and I would love it if you would share your lists in the comments each time.

Of course, it goes without saying it is just my opinion and most of these are nitpicking.  Out of 53 movies I will give 20 movies an A category grade, 30 with a B or higher  (which is pretty remarkable when you think about it) so I like them all but minute differences lead to my rankings.

I thought I would start with ranking the official Disney Princesses because I love the princess movies. These are not all the women, or even princesses in Disney Canon, that will be another list.   However, I am including Anna and Elsa in Frozen because they are considered princesses in waiting (they have a coronation ceremony and everything).

Some people gripe about Mulan being included but that doesn’t bother me because there are no princesses in China.  If there were she would have been made one in the movie for sure.  She certainly shows all the qualities of a princess so it’s fine with me.

This list also includes Merida from Brave, which I have not reviewed, because she is an official Disney Princess. Also, this is a ranking of the princesses themselves not the movies they are in.

RANKING DISNEY PRINCESSES

1. Belle- smart, thoughtful, compassionate and brave

Princess-Belle

2. Ariel- free spirit, not afraid to take risks, loyal, impetuous

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3. Cinderella- hard worker, good friend, kind, optimistic

cinderella24. Tiana- hard worker, dedicated, loyal, goal setter, soft spoken but bold

tiana5. Rapunzel- optimistic, naive but smart in own way, inquisitive, fun-loving and hopeful

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6. Mulan- Loyal, brave, strong, determined, a fighter

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7. Elsa- Free, empowered, conflicted, learns self acceptance and control, beautiful, strong

elsa8. Merida- bold, impetuous, free spirit, brave, confident,  curly hair

Merida_web_small9. Jasmine- independent, loving., spunky, compassionate

jasmine10. Anna- innocent, sweet, kind, believes in others, impetuous, willing to take risks

anna11.. Snow White- optimistic, kind, positive, happy

snow white12. Aurora- asleep most movie but beautiful, a singer, a dreamer, optimistic, loving and  like her better in blue!

Auroraonmodel13. Pocahontas- loves nature, kind and brave.  Last because she doesn’t change or grow much and her choices actually cause death

Pocahontas-disney-princess-31322105-1280-800