Mark Reviews Movies

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2


3 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn

Cast: The voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal

MPAA Rating: PG (for mild rude humor)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 9/27/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 26, 2013

One might recall that the climax of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs pit our intrepid scientist hero against a cornucopia of sentient food products. The mutated food was an inadvertent result of a machine he created in order to save his town, which was isolated on an island and its economic viability fall apart with the closing of the local sardine plant.

That development, one might also recall, led to some really imaginative and cutting allusions to a once-great town trying anything to overcome economic collapse and, in the process, creating Sardine Land—a place no one in town would really want to see and no tourists would go out of their way to visit. The film was much smarter than it needed to be, and the climactic encounter with living foodstuff was perhaps the weakest element.

With Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, screenwriters Erica Rivinoja, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein (taking over screenwriting duties from the original film's directors, who have been replaced by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn) seem to have challenged themselves to take the least successful part of its predecessor and make something of it. The result is a surprisingly effective sequel that nearly matches the original for its blend of delightfully absurdist humor and satirical bite even while offering a narrative that is completely different from the film it follows.

The primary reason is the characters, who are far more endearing than we may have thought even after their first outing. Here, they really are the focus of a story that puts them in a fairly straightforward story of adventure and exploration in a familiar place overrun by oddities. It's a little startling how quickly we're reminded of their unique quirks and just how agreeably amusing those eccentricities and the way they firmly establish a devil-may-care tone are.

After a short recap, the story picks up immediately after the end of the first film. Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader) has just destroyed the FLDSMDFR (It's still funny hearing characters pronounce that)—his greatest and, unintentionally, most terrible invention, which created food from water—before it could destroy the town of Swallow Falls. He and his now-girlfriend Sam Sparks (voice of Anna Faris), a meteorologist, decide to open up their own laboratory with the help of their friends, including Flint's assistant Steve (voice of Neil Patrick Harris), a monkey with a voice box that imparts his every thought (usually his name).

Before any of their plans can start, though, Swallow Falls receives a visitor. He is Chester V (voice of Will Forte), the CEO of Live Corp, the "coolest, hippest" company in the world that is so cool and hip that they need only make different versions of one product (It's not a phone but a food bar). Actually, it's a hologram of Flint's hero, whose aura is serene and whose hand and arm movements are hypnotic in their flow and flexibility. The hologram Chester V offers the residents of Swallow Falls the opportunity to temporarily move from their homes to the city of San Franjose while his company cleans up their town. He even offers Flint an opportunity to work at Live Corp. As the people abandon their town, the FLDSMDFR restarts on its own.

We're first re-introduced to this world where science makes anything possible, and the design reflects that notion. Live Corp headquarters is a massive facility shaped like an incandescent light bulb where the employees are whisked away in tubes from the common area, where workers can get a pep talk from their boss, to the bowels of the facility, where the inventors sit in cubicles to design something that might impress Chester V enough to promote them to the role of a "Thinkonaut." This has always been Flint's dream, so he takes to inventing all kinds of devices of questionable usefulness and tests them out on his father (voice of James Caan), whose massive eyebrows and mustache can express various degrees of emotion.

When Chester V tasks Flint to go back to Swallow Falls to stop the FLDSMDFR, which is now creating "foodimals" that the boss believes will eventually attack the rest of the world, we're reacquainted with the rest of the cast. There are Brent (voice of Andy Samberg), a professional mascot who has upgraded from a diaper to a chicken suit, and Earl (voice of Terry Crews), the local police officer who can will a tear back into his duct and whose chest hair seems to possesses preternatural powers. The most appealing is Manny (Voice of Benjamin Bratt), an enigma of a cameraman whom we first see birthing a calf with the professionalism and tools of a skilled surgeon.

Is there a reason Manny is doing this? The only reason is that there is no reason. Like its predecessor, the film is silly for the sake of being silly, and also like the original, it buys into that premise wholeheartedly, which is the film's most significant charm. When the team returns to Swallow Falls, they discover a dense jungle where "tacodiles" and "flamangos" and "cantelopes" roam free, and the portmanteaux come so quickly that, at first, we might miss the joke of the "cantelope." The world is bright and full of such vibrant colors (Even the 3-D can't diminish the vividness) that it's easy to overlook how conventional the story becomes once it becomes clear the "foodimals" might not be as they first appear.

The film's sense of humor is as strong and persistent as its predecessor's, and even necessary exposition isn't safe from being disrupted by some gag in the background. The world of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is like a lively playground, and it's still quite a bit of fun to visit.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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