Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
Written by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Erica Rivinoja
Inspired by the book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett

            The first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs seemed like a fairly safe kids movie from the trailers, but managed to win me over with its over-the-top humor and charm that significantly elevated the basic concept of the book.  The second movie brought two worries with it: one being that it’s a sequel, and the other being that Lord and Miller are no longer directing, which can be two major blows against any movie.  Fortunately, Cloudy 2 (mostly) works its humor and charm over once again.
             Starting shortly after the conclusion of the first movie, Swallow Falls is absolutely destroyed, causing the population to relocate.  And Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) even gets a job with genius inventor and childhood hero Chester V (Will Forte).  But the job goes badly, and as things look at their worst for Flint, Chester sends him on a secret mission to Swallow Falls, where the food is still being created—and has evolved into foodimals.
             And the movie gets a lot of mileage both out of the transformed Swallow Falls and the foodimals.  The environment itself is visually stunning.  Realism tends to be tossed out the window, so instead it’s just this fantastical world of food plants and living food.  And the foodimals get a lot of material, from their unique looks to the many puns and jokes the movie pulls out.  And the new team has kept the great sense of humor here.  Some of the jokes would be lame under most circumstances, but they’re delivered with that fun and winking nod that makes you laugh.  And it all goes over the top, such that as the movie gets bigger and more ridiculous towards the climax, it just feels strangely natural.
            The biggest change here is the message, which, without getting into too many spoilers, has changed from the consumerism and gluttony of the first movie—a good idea, as otherwise it would just be repetitive.  Instead, there’s more of a message about environmentalism here.  It generally works, but it does have the same flaw of the first movie: things are so over-the-top that trying for any sort of real world message can just get lost in the shuffle.  The character moments work a lot better, with Flint stuck between his idol of Chester V and his friends.  It lacks the character development that happened in the first movie, but it still works.
            The movie does have its handful of problems, though.  The opening scene is particularly weak, as it recaps the first movie and then repeats a bunch of jokes from the first movie.  It at least gets it out of the way early on, and doesn’t fall into it later.  Well, besides with Brent (Andy Samberg), whose sole joke is that he says “UH OH!” a lot.  And by a lot, I mean going past the rule of three and right into “Yes, we get it” territory.  And finally, there’s the replacement of Earl’s voice, from Mr. T to Terry Crews.  This is a minor problem, as Terry Crews does a good job.  He’s just not Mr. T, and doesn’t have the same effect that Mr. T had.  Honestly, I never thought a movie would lose something without Mr. T, but there you go.

            Overall, if you enjoyed the first movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a perfect second serving.  It keeps the great humor and visuals that made the first one a success, and even its faults don’t stop the movie from being a fun time.

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