Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) has just succeeded in shutting down his machine that turned food into water on his island home of Swallow Falls.  The island is now covered in giant hamburgers, mounds of spaghetti and meatballs and massive melting scoops of ice cream.  Flint and the rest of the residents are surveying the damage when a helicopter lands containing one of Flint’s childhood heroes--TV scientist Chester V (voiced by Will Forte).  Chester runs a giant company called Live Corp and has made a fortune selling food bars with the next version due out very soon.  Chester and his people tell all the residents of Swallow Falls they will quickly clean up all the leftovers and have them back on the island before they know it.  Until then, everyone is relocated in San Franjose, California, the home of Live Corp headquarters.  Flint’s dad, Tim (voiced by James Caan) doesn’t like the idea of leaving his lifelong home but goes along with it since everyone else is.  In their temporary apartment, Flint is just across the hall from TV weather woman Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris).  Chester V is impressed by Flint’s food making invention and invites him to become part of Live Corp’s training program.  If he works hard, he might become one of Chester’s Thinkuanauts and earn a coveted orange vest.  Flint is shown around Live Corp by Chester’s most trusted aide, Barb (voiced by Kristen Schaal), a talking orangutan who has a human brain inside of her ape brain.  For six months, Flint creates dozens of inventions, trying to become one of the select few who become Thinkuanauts.  Unfortunately, Flint isn’t chosen; however, Chester approaches Flint afterwards and tells him of a secret mission he must go on.  All of Chester’s teams on Swallow Falls have stopped reporting in.  Something is wrong and Chester shows Flint video from the island.  Flint’s machine wasn’t destroyed as he thought.  It is still functioning and has reprogrammed itself to produce living food animals, or foodimals.  There are shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, cheese spiders, flamangos and the very scary tacodile supreme along with many more.  Chester V gives Flint a computer chip that will shut down the machine once it is inserted.  Unable to keep the mission to himself, Flint tells Sam insists on coming with him.  She then tells her cameraman Manny (voiced by Benjamin Bratt).  Flint also tells former island policeman Earl (voiced by Terry Crews) and former sardine plant spokesperson Baby Brent (voiced by Andy Samberg).  Flint’s dad also overhears the conversation and offers to take everyone to the island on his boat.  When they arrive, they are all shocked to discover the island is overgrown with huge amounts of vegetation.  The weather over the island has changed for some reason.  As Flint and the others begin looking for his machine, Chester V is keeping an eye on them.  His reasons for selecting Flint for the mission are not what they seem.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel.  It takes much the same type of humor from its predecessor and adapts it for the story.  While the film’s makers might be guilty of a lack of imagination, they cannot be faulted for their execution as this sequel is a worthy companion to what’s come before, with one exception.
As with the first film, “Cloudy 2” has very stylized character animation.  Nearly every main character has some kind of physical trait that is exaggerated.  Flint has uncontrollable hair and a big nose that gets stuck in things.  Chester V has a pointed beard, rail-thin body and arms that move like rubber bands.  Barb, being an orangutan, has a body shaped like a bell.  Each of these exaggerated characteristics doesn’t reflect anything about their personality; but provides the audience with easily identifiable traits so you never have to wonder who’s who.  That’s important when you’re making a kids movie.
The overall look of the film is very colorful and imaginative.  The interior of a rock candy mountain shown in the film looks like the inside of a geode with colorful, faceted stones producing dangerous towers protecting Flint’s machine.  And the food animals range from very simple to works of near genius.  We see living marshmallows that simply have a face added on one flat end.  The same is often done with various living berries.  Things get a bit more complex when you bring a taco to life and the film puts together a collection of taco shells, filling ingredients and whole peppers to create the beast that is tacodile supreme.  All of the food creatures with real life analogs have been given characteristics of that animal.  The tacodile supreme is very protective of its young.  The cheese spider, which is a cheeseburger with French fry legs, has made multiple eyes out of the sesame seeds on its bun.  The film uses these similarities to teach a lesson on tolerance of those who look different; however, it is also an effective way to connect the fantastical to the ordinary.
“Cloudy 2” is also a very funny film.  It elicits laughs with slapstick, physical humor and also by molding the language to match the weirdness of the creatures.  Food puns are a staple of this and while they are simple, they are effective.  I laughed quite a bit at things I’ve seen several times in the trailer.  They were still funny when seen in context.  The small crowd I was with, made up of children and their parents, all seemed to be enjoying the movie with lots of giggles and hushed comments of wonder and surprise.  The movie does grown-ups a favor and gives us several jokes that will fly over youngsters’ heads.  I appreciate a kid’s movie that makes an effort to entertain the older members of the audience.  “Cloudy 2” succeeds at making the film entertaining for all ages.
Where the movie comes up short is the story.  While all the required conflict, lesson learning and happy ending are in place, the film does not contain the deeper layer of emotion that the original did.  A big part of the first film was the strained relationship between Flint and his dad.  The science-obsessed son didn’t share the same ambitions as his fisherman father.  While dad tried to understand, he just was unable to grasp everything Flint was trying to do.  The first film was able to give a real world lesson about understanding and unconditional love that meshed well with the humor.  This second effort doesn’t have the emotional depth.  We see some of the original conflict still in place but it is given very little screen time.  The larger and more prominent effort at depth involves Flint becoming emotionally separated from his friends due to the efforts of Chester V.  This feels more like a “Don’t Do Drugs” message of fighting peer pressure and being your own person, making your own decisions; however, this doesn’t really ring nearly as true as the original.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is rated PG for mild crude humor.  This mostly comes from a few bathroom references that aren’t the least bit offensive.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” makes a great effort at repeating the winning formula of the first film:  Likable characters in fantastical situations with a great deal of humor.  The one ingredient it failed to add was giving the story an emotional anchor.  While the movie is certainly watchable and entertaining, it doesn’t have quite the heart as before.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” gets four guitars out of five.
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