A welcome improvement over the original Wreck-It Ralph's tale of a good guy (voiced to sweetly earnest perfection by John C. Reilly) who can’t seem to shake his onscreen character’s nasty rep when he’s off duty with his fellow video-game actors. (What part of show business don’t they understand?) In that story, he sets off on a hero’s quest to prove his goodness, and ends up with the prize he desired all along: a friend (Sarah Silverman as the glitchy Princess Vanellope). In this one, he sets off — after an unusually slow, clunky opening — on another, this time to save Vanellope’s race-car video game from the scrap heap. But the journey takes the two of them out of the arcade’s old-school confines and into the dizzying variety and scope of online life, and it isn’t long before lil’ V finds the dream world she didn’t even know she was dreaming of in the online video game Slaughter Race. That’s when things get both personal and interesting, as directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnston artfully explore the promise, the horror, and the heartbreak of the internet’s infinite possibility. (There’s only so far a family movie can go in showing a world where everyone can be just as awful as they want to be without consequence, which makes their achievement here all the more impressive: what it does to Ralph is deeply unsettling but not quite terrifying.) Best of all, they don’t shy away from the ending their story demands. Second-best of all, they go goofily meta in a scene where Vanellope meets her fellow Disney princesses, but have the good sense to know when it’s time to get back to the straight story. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
This movie is not currently in theaters.