Samantha (Anna Faris) talks to Flint (Bill Hader) in Sony Pictures Animations “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.”
Noisy, bright, flashy, colorful, frenzied, frantic and fun – these adjectives describe what most kids like to see in an animated family film.
If those elements make up the recipe for a successful flick, the chefs in charge of preparing “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” doubled – no, tripled – most of the ingredients. Seriously, the filmmakers must have been binging on sugar cubes from preproduction through postproduction. Kids will find the shiny packaging irresistible: The visuals are surprisingly stunning, the pacing extraordinarily brisk and the cuteness level – well, it’s as cute as a button on a kitten in a tutu with a pink polka-dot bow.
Fortunately, there is a respectable story to buttress all that glittery surface material.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” picks up where the first film in Sony Pictures Animation’s franchise left off.
At the end of the first film, inventor Flint Lockwood and his friends believed they had saved the world. They thought they had destroyed his most infamous invention – the Flint Lockwood Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, or FLDSMDFR for short. The FLDSMDFR turned water into food causing cheeseburger rain and spaghetti tornadoes.
In the sequel, Flint discovers his invention actually survived and that it is now creating food-animals. These “foodimals" soon take over Swallow Falls, the island home of Flint and his friends.
In charge of a clean-up operation, super-inventor Chester V, Flint’s childhood idol and CEO of Live Corp., taps Flint to locate FLDSMDFR before the foodimals have a chance to leave the island and take over the world.
Flint and his friends travel back to Swallow Falls and face hungry tacodiles, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, cheespiders and other foodimals.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” borrows the sense of wonder expressed in the early scenes of “Jurassic Park” when revealing the world of the foodimals. Audiences also will find a similar theme at work: Science, unchecked by a moral compass, often leads to bad things. In this film, it is Chester V who lacks principles. Though his friends are quick to spot Chester V’s duplicity, Flint, blinded by his adoration, is easily manipulated and gradually finds himself estranged from his comrades.
The voice cast includes Bill Hader as Flint, Anna Faris as Samantha "Sam" Sparks, James Caan as Tim Lockwood, Will Forte as Chester V, Andy Samberg as Brent McHale, Neil Patrick Harris as Steve the Monkey, Benjamin Bratt as Manny, Terry Crews as Officer Earl Devereaux and Kristen Schaal as Barb.
The film showcases two relationships as it develops its narrative.
Flint continues to have issues with his widowed father, unable to connect fully with him despite his father’s newfound confidence in his son. Interestingly, it is Tim who finds greater purpose and, in doing so, bridges the father-son gap.
Equally important is the evolution of the relationship between Chester V and Barb, the super-inventor’s talking and lipstick-wearing orangutan with a human brain. Barb plays the role of obedient assistant, mistaking Chester V’s endless mandates and demands for signs of friendship. Barb is eventually forced to recognize his bullying demeanor as tyrannical oppression.
Visually, the animation in Sony’s franchise differs from Disney’s animated features. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” features larger-than-life character designs, sometimes wildly exaggerated facial expressions and radiantly outlandish landscapes. The foodimals gradually become the heart of the film, and the filmmakers went to great lengths to deliver a delectable smorgasbord of brilliantly imagined food-animal mash-ups.
Kids will love the look of the film as well as the comic word-play. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is full of fun foodie puns that keep younger audiences laughing, from the leek in the boat to a necessary cutting of the cheese … web. What else would a cheespider weave?
Adults will appreciate the stunning visuals and cultural references, although overindulging in the endless puns may lead to an upset tummy for some. The key ingredients in the narrative keep the film interesting for adults and serve as subtle lesson for younger viewers. Overall, the second course in the franchise is as appetizing as the first, even though watching it is likely to lead to brief episodes of hyperactivity.