Based on a 32-page children’s book, writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller made a fun-filled adaptation when they cooked up Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. With what they were given, Cloudy turned out to have a lot of heart and reasonably dramatic stakes. With both Lord and Miller stepping down from the director chairs, it was up to Kris Pearn and Cody Cameron to helm Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Lacking the energy and emotional resonance of the original, Cloudy 2, unfortunately, has all of the ingredients to be successful yet is delivered to audiences undercooked.
I was a little worried how Cloudy 2 would fair with two new directors after how well Cloudy worked. But seeing how Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn worked closely with the first (story artist and head of story respectively), they had to have had a clear vision where to go next, right? Opening the movie with a short recap on where we left off, and reiterating Flint Lockwood’s (Bill Hader) desire to be a scientist, Cloudy 2 starts off a bit rough.
The residents of Swallow Falls are relocated after the events of the first film by a scientist named Chester V (Will Forte), Flint’s idol, who bears uncanny similarities to Steve Jobs. Chester V runs Live Corp, a company that was built on innovation of a food bar loved by millions. Live Corp has been tasked to help clean up the food disaster around the world and promises Flint and his townsfolk that they will be able to return to Swallow Falls in no time.
While settling into their new digs, Flint works at Live Corp to fulfill his dreams, Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) works as a successful weather girl, Manny (Benjamin Bratt) a surgeon, Mr. Lockwood (James Caan) lounges around at home, and Earl (Terry Crews) becomes the owner of a cupcake shop. The citizens of Swallow Falls feel a bit empty in their new home, while something is stewing back on their island.
Having difficulties cleaning Swallow Falls due to the evolution of food animals, Chester V asks Flint to help find the FLDSMDFR, shut it down, and save the day. Flint and pals jump on Mr. Lockwood’s boat and head home, only to find out home is not what it use to be. We saw a taste of food animals in the original film near the end, protecting the FLDSMDFR, but these new foodimals are completely sentient.
All of the cheespiders, tacodile supremes, flamangos, watermelophants, fruit cockatiels, meatbalruses, apple-piethons, bananostriches, PB & jellyfish, and wildebeets are truly fantastic in this well established world. It’s even great to experience it all in 3D. The level of creativity put into developing the look and personality of each of the foodimals is truly impressive. The new and improved Swallow Falls that is gorgeously animated and you could tell that’s where most of the energy was spent making this movie.
It’s not obvious until we reach Swallow Falls that the filmmakers had no idea how to evolve the characters. As Cloudy 2 delved deeper into the bigger idea, most of the characters felt underdeveloped, especially Chester V and Flint. From the start Chester is immediately labeled the antagonist, never giving the audience a chance to question his role, but there is never any justification behind his motives or personality beyond a flat cartoon villain. On the other hand, Flint doesn’t seem like he has learned anything and struggles moving past the similar hangups he had in the first Cloudy. In fact, the whole movie is all about Flint, none of the side characters get any moments to shine; Steve (Neil Patrick Harris) has more to do than Sam.
Aside from the clever witticisms and food puns, the road that this story takes our characters is elementary. It’s as if the writer’s eyes were bigger than their stomachs. Having Flint push away his friends and family has been done already. There is so much potential littered throughout this animated feature that it’s sad to see it go to waste. There are situations where the many food jokes – some that mirror the previous material and feel overused – could have been put on the back burner to give our characters a moment to interact more with the new world.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is enjoyable in moments, but the mediocre ingenuity spoils the fun. The title alone speaks for itself. While the characters are far less interesting than its predecessor, the movie always keeps you invested with its creatively, colorful world. If they wish to continue the franchise, the characters need to expand beyond themselves from what we already know of them. Cloudy 2 ends up feeling like warmed up leftovers, but welcomed leftovers nonetheless, smothered in ketchup to cover up the lost flavor of the original dish.
What did you think about Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2? Tell us in the comment section below.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is out in theaters everywhere in 2D and 3D Friday, September 27. It was directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, with a run time of 95 minutes, and it has been rated PG for mild rude humor
Find me on the Twitter @TyRawrrnosaurus