When it’s good, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is very, very good. When it’s not, it’s annoying, cloying and LOUD! Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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Movie review

When it’s good, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is very, very good. When it’s not, it’s annoying, cloying and LOUD!

The sequel to “Wreck-It Ralph,” the 2012 animated hit from Disney, is above all too, too clever and self-impressed for its own good.

Sending the two main characters from the original — good-hearted, arcade-game lunkhead Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his precocious pint-size best bud Vanellope von Schweetz (chirpily voiced by Sarah Silverman) — into the internet allowed the filmmakers to run wild, packing the picture with bright, colorful imagery studded with a profusion of real-life online corporate presences — Google, Amazon, imdb, eBay, etc., etc., ad infinitum — along with a passel of made-up others. BuzzTube, anyone?

Under the direction of Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, veterans of the less frantic and much superior “Zootopia,” it’s overflowing with humorous observations about the online universe. In the mix as well are brief appearances by such characters as “Star Wars” Storm Troopers and C-3PO, and, fleetingly, Iron Man. With the Disney castle logo prominently displayed, the picture seems at times like an extended infomercial for Disney and its various properties (Lucasfilm, Marvel).

Ralph and Vanellope venture into the web to search for a rare replacement component for Vanellope’s outdated racer game back in the real world. Ralph, a simple soul contentedly set in his ways, is baffled and buffeted by the zippy pace of the online world. Vanellope, wide-eyed and eager for new experiences, is bedazzled by the seemingly infinite possibilities of this wondrous place. She wants to stay and play and explore. Ralph just wants to buy that component, an arcade-game steering wheel — it’s for sale on eBay — and high-tail it home.

The friendship suffers strains, which make for increasingly maudlin, bellowed musings by poor Ralph on the value of that friendship — Vanellope is his only friend — while Vanellope feels suffocated by his clingy nature. Their efforts to work out their issues drag the picture down.

But when it’s good, “Ralph” is positively inspired. The best segment is a scene in which Vanellope encounters a mass gathering of Disney princesses. Ariel, Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Belle, Mulan, Elsa and more, all here (performed in most cases by the actors who originally voiced them) and wondering who this interloper, who claims to be a princess herself, is. That leads to the following exchange: Snow White: “Were you poisoned?” “No.” Aurora: “Cursed?” “No!” Rapunzel, Belle: “Kidnapped or enslaved?” “No! Are you guys OK? Should I call the police?”

Another choice moment: Ralph, a flash-in-the-pan internet sensation thanks to some silly videos he makes, wanders into a room where comments on those videos are posted. He reads. He’s appalled. A wise netizen, voiced by Taraji P. Henson, advises him that the first rule of the internet is to never read comments.

The best animated movies are those that feel timeless. “Ralph,” with its right-now storyline, seems already dated, a product of thinking that’s five minutes ago.


★★½ “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” with the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson. Directed by Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, from a screenplay by Johnston and Pamela Ribon. 112 minutes Rated PG for some action and rude humor. Opens Nov. 21 at multiple theaters.