Sunday, October 06, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 / *** (PG)

Featuring the voice talents of:
Flint Lockwood: Bill Hader
Sam Sparks: Anna Faris
Tim Lockwood: James Caan
Chester V: Will Forte
Brent McHale: Andy Samberg
Manny: Benjamin Bratt
Steve: Neil Patrick Harris
Earl Devereaux: Terry Crews
Barb: Kristen Schaal

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. Written by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Erica Rivinoja, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Based on characters created by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett. Running time: 95 min. Rated PG (for mild rude humor).

I loved “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” to an unreasonable degree. I believe I only awarded it three and a half stars upon my initial screening because I knew deep down that it wasn’t as good as my enjoyment level of it. I wanted to award it four stars, though. I figured upon subsequent viewings my opinion of it would diminish, but it never has. I just love the wacky, almost non sequitur nature of its humor. It characters are loveable, and its humor is outrageous. So, when I learned there would be a “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2”, it immediately became one of the most anticipated films of the year for me.

As is often the case with sequels, the second film doesn’t quite live up to the original. Of course, with the bar raised so high by the first film, the fall still leaves its sequel in the very enjoyable, fun film category. While the first film was a whacky kid’s version of a mad science experiment gone wrong plot, the plot of CWCM2 is closer to that of a “Mysterious Island” or a “Land That Time Forgot” with a little topical criticism of a popular technology company thrown in.

Starting off at the exact point the first film ended, the people of the island community of Swallows Falls find their home in a state of destruction after the young scientist Flint Lockwood has destroyed his food making invention, the FLDSMDFR. Live Corp, the technology company founded by the famous Chester V, flies in to offer to clean up the food ravaged island. Chester offers a job to Flint and has all the island’s inhabitants relocated to San Franjose with the promise to return them home as soon as the island is once again habitable.

The cleanup doesn’t go as planned, however, and Chester recruits Flint and his friends to locate the FLDSMDFR, which was not destroyed and has mutated to produce living food that is making the cleanup impossible and deadly. Chester is hiding something, however, a fact that escapes the terminally trusting Flint.

Chester V is clearly based on Steve Jobs and his company is a mirror for Apple Computers with a light bulb as its simply recognizable logo. Until now I had thought Jobs was strictly off limits for satirization in CGI animated film, since it was his resources that revolutionized the format. The scientists in the firm consume coffee products like meth addicts as their campus is outfitted with an espresso machine every five feet as part of their company philosophy. Chester’s big contribution to the world has been a power energy bar, of which they are on the eve of releasing the new version. There is a company product unveiling much like the ones that Jobs became famous for with new Apple products. For some reason, the release of the new power bar could be delayed by the problems Live Corp is facing in Swallow Falls.

Once they arrive on the island, Flint and his crew—his meteorologist girlfriend Sam Sparks, her multitalented camera man Manny, Flint’s fishing expert father, his former arch nemesis Brent, the pectoral twitching policeman Earl Devereaux, and Flint’s monkey Steve—find that Foodimals have taken over the island. For diehard cineastes, there are a great many references to other films of this nature. “Jurassic Park” references dominate these sequences as we find an amazing amount of new species have been born of FLDSMDFR’s malfunction. The writers have a great deal of fun creating names for the creatures, such as shrimpanzees, watermelephants, and the tacodile supreme.

As is traditional with the family film format, the writing team inserts a good lesson for Flint to learn about trusting friends who stand behind him. Chester V has long been Flint’s idol, so he can’t imagine that Chester would steer him astray. However, Chester uses Flint as part of his own agenda, while Flint’s friends begin to suspect Chester’s ulterior motives. Instead of following his friends’ advice, Flint becomes a pawn of Chester’s scheming. Only a realization of the value of his friends can allow Flint to choose the right path.

Although “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” never inspires the volume of guffaws as the original, there is still plenty to entertain and admire here. Every once and a while it achieves the same level of absurd humor as its predecessor, and those laughs would make any film worth it. The production is a wonder of art design, with an amazing amount of creativity going into the designs of the Foodimals and the Live Corp headquarters. This is not only an enjoyable family feature, but also a spectacular looking movie that nearly lives up to the original. 

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