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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

September 30, 2013
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Expectations are high for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, especially since the first one was such an unexpected winner. Almost the whole team is back again and, with the help of a wise shift in styles, they mostly manage to live up to their reputation.

The story picks up right where the last one left off. The island of Swallow Falls has been overrun with the gigantic food expelled from the “Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator” — FLDSMDFR, for short. The inventor, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has managed to turn it off with the help of his new girlfriend, meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), her multi-talented cameraman, Manny (Benjamin Bratt), the super-athletic cop, Earl (Terry Crews, capably replacing Mr. T), Flint’s sardine-fishing dad, Tim (James Caan), the chicken-suited nincompoop, “Baby” Brent (Andy Samberg), and Flint’s pet chimp, Steve (Neil Patrick Harris).

So everyone is standing among the wreckage celebrating their victory, when who should touch down but Flint’s childhood hero, Chester V (Will Forte), or at least one of his holographic clones. Chester is the head of Live Corp, a sendup of Silicon Valley tech firms like Apple and Google that manages to stop just short of being mean. He offers to clean up the island, and temporarily relocates everyone to California. Of course, this is just a coverup for an attempt to find the FLDSMDFR and put it to nefarious ends. But things don’t go so well, and eventually Chester and his hyperintelligent orangutan sidekick, Barb (Kristen Schaal), send Flint back to the island to do the job himself.

Where the first movie was a zany sendup of disaster flicks, this one feels more like Jurassic Park, as our heroes delve into the unknown jungles surrounding the big rock-candy mountain that now dominates the island. They find a whole food-based ecosystem, leading to dozens and dozens of food-based puns. For some people, the flamangoes, hippotatomuses, watermelophants, wildebeets, shrimpanzees, and tacodiles — baby and supreme — will grow tiresome, but I admit that I ate them all up. And every time someone noticed a leek in their boat, I lost it, but I’m a giant language dork. That said, I could make the case that puns are a great way for kids to exercise their own developing language skills, for whatever that’s worth.

The visual creativity in rendering all these “foodimals” is delightful. Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn have outdone themselves here. The whole film looks as great as the first one did, and that sort of visual spectacle goes a long way.

The story, however, is a little less well-done. It’s a pretty straightforward arc for Flint, though I give some credit to the writing team for finding something else for the main character to do in a sequel besides retrace his previous steps — something even many “grown-up” sequels fail miserably at. But there’s not really much for anyone else to do here. The biggest disappointment is that there’s nothing to match the wonderful subplot that has Sam embracing her long-suppressed nerdy side — complete with a romantic scene putting on her thick glasses and tying her hair back — that made the first installment subversively great.

Still, without the shadow cast by its predecessor, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 would stand tall as a solidly-good-but-maybe-not-great animated feature. Disney gets one more bite at that apple with Frozen, coming at Thanksgiving, but I’m reasonably certain we’ve found this year’s winner right here.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: it does squeak out a pass, which is one thing it has over the previous movie.

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