It’s no picnic saving the world.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a pleasant surprise when released in 2009. It took a one-joke premise and managed to tease a lot of visual creativity and a lot of heart from it. It was also a smash at the box office, so of course a sequel was in order. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 promises a return to the food-based tomfoolery of the original, but does it deliver?
The story begins mere minutes after the end of the last movie, in which inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader, Superbad) saved his town from his own invention, which rained food down on his island home. Flint’s childhood hero Chester V. (Will Forte, Saturday Night Live) arrives, offering to clean up the island. After spending time in Chester’s organization, Flint learns that the island is still overrun with food—make that living food! Flint, his girlfriend Sam (Anna Faris, Scary Movie), and their friends head back to the island, venturing into the unknown, searching for the source of the catastrophe and Chester’s real plans.
Instead of the disaster movie genre, which was spoofed in the original, this second film instead spoofs the “exploring a mysterious island” genre. While there’s plenty of fun to be had, it doesn’t provide quite the same level of madcap thrills the first movie offered. While the first film had increasing, escalating stakes, with the food mishaps getting more and more elaborate as the story went on, this second movie is more about exploration, and finding different kinds of food animals—a.k.a. “foodimals”—as our heroes travel deeper and deeper into the island. Although there are a lot of laughs, this is a meandering narrative. The characters wander from place to place, having various misadventures, but without a story throughline with plot point A connecting to plot point B and so on.
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 features no shortage of sequel-itis. A bunch of characters from the previous movie are along for the ride, like local cop Earl (Terry Crews, The Expendables, taking over the role from Mr. T in the first one), talking monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother), chicken-suited pal Brent (Andy Samberg, Hotel Transylvania) , and deadpan cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt, Private Practice). The problem is that while some attempt has been to give these characters arcs, they’re really only here to remind us that they were in the first movie. A more successful effort is the subplot with Flint’s dad, Tim (James Caan, Misery). Flint keeps trying to break out on his own, while Tim wants to get involved. Tim then finds a surrogate family among the foodimals while Flint has adventures elsewhere. This part of the film felt genuine, real character development among all the silliness.
Despite my complaints, the filmmakers are not phoning it in. Many attempts are made to recapture that manic, over-the-top feel of the original. Most of the characters have thin, noodle-like arms, which provide a lot of crazed movements and slapstick. These movements are a rare case of CGI working in the movie’s favor, an improvement over traditional 2D animation. Similarly, the overall style continues to be bright and eye-popping. The foodimal designs are amusing and varied, while the backgrounds are vast and filled with color. If this movie can be recommended for anything, it’s the sense of awe in the visuals.
Those visuals shine nicely on Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 (Blu-ray), vivid and clear, along with rich and immersive DTS sound. The big selling point for the bonus features is four mini-movies, featuring characters from the film. For other extras, there’s a fun and informative commentary, a collection of featurettes on various aspects of the production, and a Cody Simpson music video. Exclusive to this Blu-ray are a few more bonuses, some deleted scenes, and the “Foodimal-funimal app,” which you can use to sync the Blu-ray with your phone/tablet. Finally, the slipcover has a scratch ‘n’ sniff strawberry on the front. It actually works!
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is amusing but ultimately throwaway entertainment. See it only if you loved the first one so much that you’re hungry for more.