EXPECTATIONS: I love the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs film dearly, and it took me totally by surprise. It's fun and inventive and hilarious, plus it has a lot of heart, tells an interesting father/son story and completely subverts the "nerdy girl suddenly becomes hot" cliche. But I feel most of the parts that I loved in Cloudy came from the direction of Clone High and 21 Jump Street geniuses Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Besides a courtesy story credit, their names are conspicuously absent, leaving unknowns Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn at the wheel, who have only one directing credit between the two of them, for... Open Season 3. Yeeesh...
REALITY: I'm going to let you all in on a little secret: Despite my disdain for seeing them in Rotten Tomatoes blurbs, I actually LOVE puns. Everything has its place and time in the world, and a gag-heavy silly children's film is the perfect time and place for jokes like the leek in the boat, over and over again. Watching Cloudy 2, you will realize that there had to have been at least one entire day where the writing staff did nothing but come up with food-animal names like fla-mangoes and hippo-tatoes, and it is glorious.
Are you gonna eat that or not?
Cloudy 2 takes place immediately after the events of Cloudy, with inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and his best friend/love interest meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) planning on making a science lab together with all of their friends after saving the world from a rain of giant food. They are interrupted by Flint's childhood idol, Celebrity-Scientist Chester V (Will Forte). Chester evacuates everyone from their island home so his team can take over cleanup, and puts Flint to work for him far, far away, where he can't interfere with Chester's obvious ulterior motives. Six months later, it is discovered that Flint's machine is now creating living creatures made out of food, and they are attacking Chester's team. Flint and his friends return to the island to destroy the machine and are amazed by the food animals they find, until Chester returns to force their extinction. It's... it's pretty much The Lost World: Jurassic Park from that point on.
In fact, the whole movie is a loving parody-homage to the entire Jurassic Park series, with a little bit of Avatar thrown in for good measure. The plot is borrowed and stretched incredibly thin, and is mainly just there to get as many gags in as possible. In the movie's defense, they are some really good gags. The homage also works incredibly well because it gives the animators free reign to create this lush environment and super-silly, visually inventive characters. Did I mention the hippo-tatoes? You see, they are like hippopotamuses, but they are also potatoes. I don't mean to sound sarcastic here, I genuinely loved this idea.
So, are you guys gonna eat all that or not? Because I missed lunch today.
Most of my complaints with Cloudy 2 come from its annoying and obvious villain, Chester V. While it's amusing that the film takes potshots at the annoying forced-hipness infecting corporate culture, and I am 100% down with a Steve Jobs-pastiche bad guy, Will Forte's vocal performance and Chester's overall character design made me want to punch my cinema screen every time he appeared. This isn't because I was angry at him for his evil plans or behavior, he was just irritating. This is especially frustrating because the movie has many character designs which could be irritating, but manage to be authentically cute. Bruce Campbell's bad guy worked in the original Cloudy because he had limited screen time, he a secondary plot device. Chester V is the catalyst of the entire plot of this sequel and, as we established, that plot is the weakest part of the film. Chester's evil plan doesn't even make sense. He wants to grind the food animals into food bars, and that's supposed to be wrong since they are animals& but they are animals made of food. Some of them are made from the meat of actual animals. We eat animals all the time. So thanks a lot, movie. Thanks for making me consider the moral implications of a universe in which Neil Patrick Harris plays a monkey who says his own name all the time.
This is where the loss of Lord and Miller is felt the most: The original Cloudy had a surprising amount of depth to it, as it told a story about a father and son trying to relate to each other, and made a point that women shouldn't be afraid to show their intellect. Cloudy 2 keeps many of those themes, but in a bit of a half-assed manner, without nearly the heart that Lord and Miller brought. However, in sacrifice of this, they offered a great deal more visual payoff, and it's a close, if not entirely equal, trade. Cloudy 2 is packed with visual information and sight gags throughout, and nearly all of them work without overstaying their welcome
Cloudy 2 does not live up to the admittedly-high personal standards set by its predecessor, but there is still a lot of good stuff going on here. The art design and set pieces in the film are magnificent, and other than Forte, the vocal performances by nearly everyone from the original cast are natural and convincing. (Mr. T declined to play his hilarious burly affectionate police officer from the first film, so Terry Crews replaces him. Which is honestly the best choice anyone could make.) I know "fun for the whole family" is the most cliched thing a critic can say, but that's what Cloudy 2 is. It's genuinely a fun film made for the sake of having fun. Sure, I would have loved a bit more quality consistency like the first film, but on the other hand... Look at that widdle strawberry thing! It's so friggin cute!
|James Caan Singing About Teaching Pickles to Fish||11/10|
MINORITY REPORT: Quick rundown of some of the food animals presented in this film: platyp-ice cream, banan-octopus, otter-d'oeuvres, chim-pancake, orangu-tiramisu, dog-food, pigs, cows, horses and fish. Also, those little animal crackers. Those are food animals. And Disney Animal Bars. - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison
TOTAL WRECK - crazy-eyed hound is covered in cobwebs, has a vespiary on back, graffiti on side and savage thirst for boat fuel. Frankly, I'm in over my head. He's in room 115 at Motel 6, yours free. 555-2851
Yes, it's the perfect form for surviving a car crash. But it's also the perfect form for so much more, like surviving the trauma of reading any news headline in 2016.
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