2 November 2013

Movie Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2


C

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
2013, 95mins, U
Director (s): Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn 
Writer (s): John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Erica Rivinoja 
Cast includes: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Terry Crews, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris 
UK Release Date: 25th October 2013

In the last few years I can recall few features as euphorically surprising as 2009’s “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who also provided appropriately wacky service to the “21 Jump Street” revamp), “Cloudy” was an absolute delight, packed with bizarre fits of family friendly comedy, cute characters and a believable emotional core.  Despite its definitively off-colour tone, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was a capable box-office performer, paving the way for “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”. Lord and Miller have jumped ship, allowing filmmakers Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn a chance to evolve the franchise’s refreshingly eccentric spirit, bolstered by a wealth of returning vocal talent. Unfortunately this continuation is a sobering affair, with Pearn and Cameron delivering a considerably more mechanical and forced work. There are broad guffaws, and the mise en scène retains a fittingly buzzed aesthetic, but “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” feels more knock-off than knock-out.

With their hometown polluted by leftover food, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and the inhabitants of Swallow Falls are transported to the mainland, so a clean-up led by Flint’s childhood hero - scientist Chester V (Will Forte) - can begin. Chester provides Flint with temporary employment, keeping his own nefarious intentions protected, intending to use the source of the original chaos (Flint’s FLDSMDFR machine from the first movie) to improve the recipe of his famed nutrition bars. However it quickly appears that things on Swallow Falls are not as they seem, with an ecosystem of living food-animals springing into existence, spelling failure for Chester’s initial expedition to retrieve the tech. As a result, Chester manipulates Flint into undertaking a reconnaissance mission of his own, with girlfriend Sam (Anna Faris) and other chums in tow.



Sounds pretty barmy, right? The problem with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” isn’t a lack of crazy; it’s the questionable nature of the crazy with which we’re presented. The initial foray had a fluid strangeness that organically encouraged the production of genuinely surrealist touches, but here the sillier elements feel forced and overthought. In a bid to honour the original, the film-makers have tried too hard to replicate its unique charisma – a misjudged creative path to tread. “Cloudy 2” has nothing to match the macabre sight of an overgrown man-child being devoured by sentient rotisserie chickens (an ACTUAL joke in the 2009 flick) or the presence of Flint’s irreverent inventions, instead relying on (admittedly clever) puns concerning the edible livestock that  now inhabits Swallow Falls. Jocose wordplay will only carry a 95 minute endeavour so far, and it’s here that “Cloudy 2” stumbles. There’s nothing hugely memorable within its visual or storytelling lexicon. Its determination to trot faithfully in Lord and Miller’s warped shadow actually undercutting its value as entertainment.


The cast remain chirpy, with Forte handed a larger role and Terry Crews capably filling in for Mr. T. It’s amusing to watch these characters goof-off, but the original feature also ensured the key players were given engaging arcs; and in its entirety offered an accessible and genuine message about the value of self. Here we receive nothing of the sort. Any romantic notions that previously existed between Sam and Flint have been jettisoned, with James Caan’s aloof paternal figure forced to undergo the same beats the first movie delivered so successfully. The father/son element that characterised large swathes of that story is pasted crudely back into this one; just with infinitely less soul. Similarly, whilst there’s a moral to be taken away from “Cloudy 2”, it feels too deliberate and calculated to work as anything other than a “Go Green” seminar for the incredibly young. I understand the intention on this front is respectable, but the execution is unconvincingly hollow.

In fairness “Cloudy 2” does have some energetic set-pieces and creature designs (although a budget cut leaves this installment looking slightly cheaper), but with expectations ratcheted up, these moderate positives aren't enough to satisfy. You may giggle in spots and even receive a nostalgic pang for the 2009 foray during this sequel’s few inspired beats; but ultimately “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” feels charm deficient by comparison.


A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013


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