Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 / Cert U / Director: Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn / Screenplay: Judi Barrett, Ron Barrett, John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Erica Rivinoja / Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal / Release Date: October 25th
2009’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a pleasant surprise from Sony Animation Studios, taking a slim children’s book and jettisoning most of it apart from the title and the concept of a town receiving food from the sky, and then building a mad-cap science adventure around it, one filled with a crazy company of characters careening all over the screen and operating at a breathless, manic pace that meant that another joke was never more than a few moments away.
Concentrating on the tale of Flint Lockwood (Hader) and his “Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator”, or FLDSMDFR, a machine that takes ordinary water molecules and turns them into complete meals, the film dabbled in themes such as father-son relationships, the corruption of power, a sweet awkward romance between two scientists and the prophetic power of Mr T’s chest hairs, as the FLDSMDFR went out of control and began to rain gigantic burgers, meatballs, spaghetti and all sorts of food on the town, and eventually the world.
This sequel takes up the story a full 8 minutes after the previous film when Flint and his friends have saved the town, although not before an over-long introduction fills in Flint’s backstory for anyone who missed it last time. Cue the arrival of Chester V (Forte), a bendy-limbed, goateed and lurid body warmer-wearing cross between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Doctor Venture from The Venture Bros; a childhood hero of Flint’s whose “Live Corp” is tasked with cleaning up Swallow Falls. Accompanied by his human “Thinkonauts” and hyper-intelligent orangutan assistant Barb (Schaal), Chester relocates the citizens of Swallow Falls to fabulous “San Franjose California” for the duration of the clean-up and offers Flint a spot as an inventor at Live Corp, where Flint desperately tries to make his mark in the world of inventors.
Before long Flint starts to have doubts about his talents (and a spot-on Tom Waits spoof is played) and it starts to becomes apparent that Chester may not be all that he seems. He tasks Flint with returning to Swallow Falls as the clean-up crews have been encountering... difficulties with the local “fauna”, as the FLDSMDFR is back online and spitting out wild “food animals”.
For no real reason, other than they were in the first film, Flint reassembles his team of meteorologist/girlfriend Sam Sparks (Faris), cameraman Manny (Bratt), former Tinned Sardines child mascot Baby Brent (Samberg), police chief Earl (Terry Crews replacing Mr T), lab assistant/monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris) and Flint’s dad Tim (Caan), and sets out to find the FLDSMDFR and determine what is really going on, back at the island.
The film picks up once our heroes return home and encounter the food animals with their terrible, pun-riddled names. These are completely scattershot but it’s difficult not to smile when first encountering a herd of cute “watermelon-phants” or “cantalopes”, seeing “shrimpanzees” swinging through the canopy, or Flint being stung by “mosquitoast”. The writers take every available opportunity to work food-based puns into the dialogue, leaving no “scone” unturned in their quest to bury the audience in a torrent of food-related jokes. While there as many misses as hits, the frequency of jokes guarantees that there are regular laughs and the near-constant antics of Steve in the background manage to carry the audience through any rough spots.
Younger children will be entranced by the rubber, flailing characters but there are a fair number of jokes aimed squarely at adults that work well, including a very funny codename for a MacGuffin that is pretty audacious for a PG-rated movie.
True, it doesn't have the novelty of the first film, but, given that the rough edges are usually filed off most children’s movies these days, the fact that one of the large animation studios is making such a zany feature, where the much-lauded Neil Patrick Harris only delivers single-word lines of dialogue and even the sardines that Flint’s dad catches offer a shrug or a smile, should be applauded. CwaCoM2 definitely provides enough laughs to warrant a watch.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10