CAST: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, Khamani Griffin
RUNNING TIME: 95 mins
BASICALLY…: Following the events of the first film, the island of Swallow Falls has transformed into a tropical paradise inhabited by various “foodimals”, and inventor Flint Lockwood (Hader) and friends are assigned to investigate it…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
On its own, sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 works surprisingly well. It dabbles on some important issues, but never takes itself too seriously. Its visuals have so much colour to them you’d almost be mistaken in thinking you were looking at an artist’s interpretation of a window. The comedy comes at you from all angles, be it in the form of puns, physical humour, sight gags or even lines in its script. It entertains everyone, from children to adults.
And yet, it never quite reaches the heights that its predecessor managed to make its mark on.
The two elements that made Cloudy 1 work were its humour and its heart. Here, it’s uncomfortably clear that one has been sacrificed in favour of the other, and while there are some touching moments they are so few in between, and even then the laughter overshadows it. Near the start of the film, a touching moment between Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and father Tim (James Caan) is buried by the sight gag of Flint being squished by his bed when Lockwood Sr. sits on it. The scene does raise some giggles, but it does dampen the attempt at a serious bonding moment. The first film had a fine balance of these sorts of scenes, but the sequel mixes them both together to create something uneasy in its tone.
Cloudy 1 writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller only served as executive producers on this film, leaving the visions and storytelling to the work of other writers and directors. Like with Kick-Ass 2, it instantly feels like a different set of hands have touched the product, and while new directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn haven’t done a bad job at replicating Lord and Miller’s work in the first movie it still doesn’t feel the same. Fans of the collaborators can look forward to their upcoming The LEGO Movie and a sequel to their own 21 Jump Street to compensate for their absence in the roles here, but for now one can only imagine how Cloudy 2 would have turned out if they had stayed on-board for the sequel.
Lord and Miller are not the only names from the original to not return for the sequel, with the likes of Bruce Campbell and especially Mr. T being nowhere to be found. While Terry Crews is a decent replacement for Mr. T in the role of over-eager cop Earl Devereaux, what made the character work in the first place was the voice of Mr. T coming out of the character’s mouth. It doesn’t come as strong or even as funny with Crews in his place, and once again we are left to pine for the original filmmakers to fill in the gap.
As for the villain, Campbell was inspired casting for a bad guy whose desire to be a bigger figure resulted in a pretty funny sight gag in Cloudy 1. He was funny, while also being a little threatening at the same time. The antagonist in Cloudy 2, on the other hand, is just plain weird. Will Forte’s Chester V is an obvious dig at Steve Jobs and his legacy at Apple, and depicted as some sort of laid-back guru with clear interior motives. On the surface, he’s just a typical bad guy with a generic evil plot who also delights in manipulating others into getting what he wants, but it’s down to the animation and voice acting that makes him stand out in how strange he is amongst other such things in the film. His bodily movements are very stop-and-start, so attention-grabbing you can hardly look away; and Forte’s voice adds a soothing, even creepy, touch to his indoctrinate ways. It almost rings back to the portrayal of snake Kaa in Disney’s The Jungle Book, a villain with similar manipulative motives whose animation and voice work made the creature so unnerving and ultimately memorable. While not as funny as Campbell, Forte’s villain is weird in his appearance and how he achieves his goals which you could argue makes him a stronger villain than Campbell was.
What audiences will probably take away from their viewing experience the most is the film’s humour and visuals. Let’s discuss the humour first, because there is so much to go around for everyone to enjoy. Opening with the credit “Another Film by A Lot of People” as it did the first film, it immediately makes itself known that it has not lost its ability to reach for the tickle bone. From there, sight gag after moment of physical and/or verbal humour dominate much of the first act, before we arrive back on the island of Swallow Falls where the art of punning steadily takes over. Much of this is used to describe the various types of “foodimals” that now inhabit the island, including “shrimpanzees” and “watermelophants”. It is even used to name the subsequent strawberry companion, Berry (sounds like Barry, geddit?) who should raise the levels of cuteness for anyone with a soft spot for things with big adorable eyes. Most of these puns, matched with their designs in the animation, reach highly creative peaks even if they do seem to be fully reliant on just the puns at times. It all works to the film’s advantage, gleefully making Cloudy 2 a movie that does not fail to make you laugh at the best of times.
Moving on to the animation, it is as visually striking as it is more energized than the sequel. While the first film had a lot of energy in its animation too, it was more downplayed in comparison. Taking a leaf out of Hotel Transylvania’s book, everything seems to have digested enough Red Bull to not only give them wings but enough speed to fly like a concord. Characters have faster movements, the humour is quicker and most of the action is hyperactive while also being highly enjoyable. It resembles more a cartoon than before, which is of course the point seeing how it is so animated, but the downplayed approach in Cloudy 1 is preferred because it feels slightly more mature and smarter. With Cloudy 2, it’s ironically watching someone run around after binging on a sugar rush. But with how everything else looks, from the tropical forests to the designs of the aforementioned “foodimals”, it really doesn’t matter because it all looks incredibly impressive.
While the overall story and character arcs are not as strong or strongly conveyed as its predecessor, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is still a tasty treat that remains edible and juicy for families to enjoy.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 falters behinds its superior first film, with the presence of Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Mr. T being sorely missed, but it packs enough humour and colourful visuals to help support the sequel on its own two French Fries legs.