Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
PLOT: The island of Swallow Falls has been transformed by Flint Lockwood's invention the FLDSMRDFR into a jungle inhabited by "foodimals" - food-animal hybrids like Shrimpanzees and Hippotatoes. Flint and his friends must seek out the machine before things get even more out of hand.
REVIEW: Stoners, children under the age of 13 and people who can't get enough puns in their daily diet are the target groups for CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2, an amiable sequel to the more inventive animated film from 2009. Wall-to-wall with vibrant colors and wacky-cute characters, the movie is a feast for the eyes but not so much for the brain. That's not to say it's not smart; the movie is playing to a pre-teen audience and doing it well. CLOUDY 2 also clearly has its eyes on the merchandising prize, offering us a plethora of cuddly "foodimals" that one can imagine will crowd toy store shelves everywhere this holiday season. And they're so darn lovable that any defense you attempt to mount will crumble under the weight of all those tasty beasts.
The movie picks up literally minutes after the conclusion of the last one, where Flint Lockwood (voiced perfectly once again by Bill Hader) has put an end to the reign of yummy terror of his food-making creation the "FLDSMRDFR". Flint and the town of Swallow Falls face a daunting clean-up, but coming to their aid is Chester V., a Steve Jobs-like billionaire inventor and Flint's childhood idol. Chester (voiced by Will Forte) offers a too-good-to-be-true proposition of taking Flint under his wing while also getting rid of the town's overabundance of food (the population of the town will have to be temporarily relocated). However, Chester's rather transparent scheme really involves getting his hands on the FLDSMRDFR in order to help him greedily launch a new series of food bars; soon, Chester is dispatching Flint back to the town of Swallow Falls to retrieve his gizmo under false pretenses.
Swallow Falls looks a whole lot different now, however: the FLDSMRDFR is actually still operational, though now it's churning out a vast ecosystem dominated by "foodimals". Yes, Susheep, Tacodiles and Cheeseburger Spiders run wild on the island, which now resembles a food-infused Jurassic Park. (The references to that movie are plentiful.) At first apprehensive about the beasts, Flint and his friends - once again including Flint's crush Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), Earl the Policeman (Terry Crews stepping in for Mr. T.), simpleminded Brent (Andy Samburg), cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt) and Flint's father (James Caan) - soon learn that the creatures are rather benevolent in nature, and destroying them would be a grave mistake. Ah but can they stop the conniving Chester V., who is aided by his talking ape Barb (Kristen Schaal)?
CLOUDY 2 is not going for Pixar-levels of wisdom or sentimentality (what's the message here, that we shouldn't kill food-animal hybrids?), nor is it quite achieving the quirky-hip status of the first film, which flicked off comic riffs with surprising grace and speed and certainly spoke to the promising careers of its directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (who went on to ably transition to live-action comedy with 21 JUMP STREET). No, this one's all about the cute - from its baby-talking strawberry mascot (named Berry!) to more Steve the monkey shenanigans and an array of zany cucumbers, cheeseburger spiders and Shrimpanzees. CLOUDY 2 wants to give itself as many options as possible to replicate the wild popularity of DESPICABLE ME's Minion characters. Some of these critters even sound like those chattering, babbling Minions, and that's most likely not by accident.
It would be easy to cynically look down on CLOUDY 2 as an obvious cash grab by Sony, which is desperate to forge an animated franchise, but because the movie is so good-natured, any potential frown is turned upside down by the straight-up goofy visuals and the overall bouncy attitude it exhibits from start to finish. The characters are thoroughly enjoyable - Flint and Sam are about as cute together as can be - and the world we find ourselves in is vivid and jovial. You won't be able to help yourself; by the time the movie is over, you'll want a Tacodile to call your own.