– Summary –
Director : Cody Cameron + Kris Pearn
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal.
Approx Running Time : 90 Minutes
Synopsis: After saving Swallow Falls (and the world) from the food storm in the first film, Flint, Sam, and Flint’s father must locate the still-functioning food machine to stop it creating a world of “Foodimals”, which have taken over the island and threaten to wreak havoc on the Earth.
What we think : Oh dear – it’s one of those sequels that flatlines before it gets out the starting gate. Bereft of the whimsy and gut-busting humor of the original, this stretching-credulity sequel feels vastly underwhelming by comparison. The animation is a delight, and the returning cast do solid performance work, but the everything about the story reeks of “try hard” committee film-making. Trying to cram so much into a film with so little, considering where it all began in the first film, Cloudy 2 is indicative of the inane, carelessly constructed sequel-ization Hollywood seems hell-bent on thrusting down the public’s throat.
Less cloud this time out.
I really loved the original Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. The fact my kids watched it repeatedly for a month or so a while back allowed me to keep finding new and funny things buried within it – mainly in the background, where a lot of great comedy is born – and with such a fantastic cast, terrific script and superb soundtrack, it was always going to be a must-see film from then on. Cloudy 2, which takes place immediately after the conclusion of the first, promised more of the same; the obscure wit, the daffy situational comedy, the delightful characters and solid eye-candy animation all looked fabulous in the trailers. You’d think Cloudy 2 would have to be monumentally bad to stuff up the premise and be a “bad film” in any respect, but allow me to announce here and now that this sequel is in no way anything other than merely mediocre at best. It’s not terrible, and will entertain the kidlets with ease, but adults approaching this with any anticipation drawn from enjoying the first film will be best served avoiding it, or at least having something else to do to occupy the brain when the novelty of food-based animal creations wears off.
Plot synopsis courtesy Wikipedia: After Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and his friends save the world from the food storm in the first film, super-inventor Chester V (Will Forte), the CEO of Live Corp, is tasked to clean the island. He relocates Flint, his friends, and the citizens of Swallow Falls to San Franjose, California. Unbeknownst to Flint, the FLDSMDFR survived the explosion and landed in the center of the island, and Chester is determined to find it. Chester invites Flint, his biggest fan, to work at Live Corp, where he meets Chester’s assistant Barb (Kristen Schaal), a talking orangutan with human intelligence. Discovering that the FLDSMDFR is still active, Chester tasks Flint to find the machine and destroy it once and for all. Despite Chester’s demands to keep the mission classified, Flint recruits his girlfriend and meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), her cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt), police officer Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews, replacing Mr T), Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), the monkey who communicates with the device on his head, and “Chicken” Brent (Andy Samberg). Much to Flint’s dismay, his father Tim (James Caan) joins the crew and they travel to Swallow Falls on his fishing boat. Upon arriving back at Swallow Falls, they notice that a jungle-like environment has overgrown the island. Tim stays behind while Flint and the others investigate, finding a vast habitat of living food animals. Chester discovers that Flint allowed his friends to join on the mission and arrives on the island with Barb, chagrined and determined to separate them. After escaping a Tacodile attack, Sam notices that the foodimal was protecting its family, and begins to suspect Chester is up to no good.
Did Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs really demand a sequel? No, but I guess the law of Hollywood stipulates that when a film makes a bucket of cash (and wasn’t really expected to) then you need to hammer the shit out of the franchise until it no longer makes money at all. Cloudy 2, a sequel nobody wanted but got anyway, attempts to keep the original films’ story and momentum going by starting where the original concluded – with Flint, Sam and the Swallow Falls gang all standing on the food-covered island, having destroyed Flint’s invention, the FLDSMDFR. Or so they thought….. In an act of desperation, the story writers have come up with the old classic twist; yes, the FLDSMDFR wasn’t destroyed after all, landing in a puddle on Swallow Falls and commencing to create a variety of food-based animal lifeforms, echoing real-world animals and causing havoc across Swallow Falls. Okay, so buying that after the events of the first Cloudy is a stretch, but I’ll go with it. Throw in a mad science genius (never before heard of in the Cloudy franchise) who strikes me slightly like a megalomaniac version of Steve Jobs, if Steve Jobs wasn’t.. you know, dead and all, and had the flexibility of a Slinky, and Cloudy 2 begins to have that creaky, desperate-for-a-story feel that strikes a lot of sequels.
The problem begins with the script, most of which involves some cockamamie plan by Chester V to capture the FLDSMDFR and rule the world via some kind of food bar (which strangely sounds a lot like the next generation of iPhone, albeit one with a lot more calories and far fewer apps), and Flint’s desperate-to-please following of Chester V’s orders in order to please his idol. You’d think Flint would have learned to be his own man after the original film, but I guess they had to come up with yet another emotional
crutch hurdle for Flint to overcome to generate the dramatic arc of this one. I really felt that Flint’s character arc was grossly under-served in this film, lacking cohesion and feeling more like a story point he had to have, rather than an organic journey for his character to undergo. Same could be said of his (once again) emotionally estranged relationship with his father, voiced by the excellent James Caan; Flint and Tim sorted their issues out in the first film, and here we are again with similar “you don’t understand me” arc that lacks the impact it did originally. The Live Corp concept seemed to come out of nowhere here, a weird kinda jab at Google, Apple, and any other ubiquitous company seen by many to have deep dark secrets best left alone. It just didn’t jibe with the original films’ slapstick-in-a-bottle feel, coming across as way too convoluted.
The characters also lack cohesive development here as well. Frankly, Flint is a total dick in this movie, and the story writes Sam Sparks – his one true love – out of the film for a good twenty minutes while Flint’s over at Live Corp trying to big-note himself. Sam Sparks’ history as a meteorologist is skimmed over lightly here as well, relegated to a snide comment midway through that isn’t given enough weight to really matter, and the character seem to become simply another token ensemble player for the many plot threads to interweave. Exactly why Earl comes back in this film is never made clear (another element I’ll put down to keeping the kiddies calm with familiar characters, rather than any legitimate plot device) and Andy Samberg’s Brent, one of the first film’s better comedy characters, is reduced to something approximating a parody of himself; there’s plenty of “what the?” moments in this film, and the treatment of the established characters of the franchise is – in this reviewer’s opinion – dreadful. Even Steve (the monkey) is reduced in his role, barely making “sidekick” status and becoming just another filler character of little-to-no importance.
At least the animation is brilliant. And it is, it really is. But dazzling design work (the Foodimals are especially cool, although the guffaw-guffaw novelty of each new one wears off rather quickly) and a rowdy editing style do not a great film alone make. The lack of decent story – or at least a story which resonated with me – undercut all that the cool production had to offer. The score, again by Mark Mothersbaugh, is suitably frantic and energetic, coupled with Stan Webb’s razor-sharp editing and the ADD-inspired speed of narrative, make the film at least rocket along trying to overcome its inherent deficits of story and character. Yes, it’s all razzle-dazzle folks, a thoroughly empty sequel in desperate need of heart-n-soul, something the original managed in spades, and yet is utterly devoid here. While I’m sure the kiddies will lap this up (and my kids already have, numerous times), adults who enjoyed the original over and over and over again will find this one sadly lacking in repeat viewing potential.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 is a sequel we shouldn’t have had. Flint’s emotional journey in this film feels too manufactured, to contrived to really hit the home run it needed, and the lack of care given to the secondary characters returning from film 1 is an indictment on the story department for failing to give the audience more of what we fell in love with the first time. While cool designs and flashy colors will entertain the younger audiences, older kids and adults will find this film lacks a genuineness and freshness, resulting in a sequel without soul; Cloudy 2 is all taste and no substance, to use a food analogy. It’s all about the rush, and not about the vitality underneath its sugary exterior. As an avowed fan of the original, this sequel is thoroughly, irredeemably disappointing.