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April 26, 2015

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

by Franz Patrick

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

The aftermath of the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, FLDSMDFR for short, creating too much food—not to mention of epic portions—has left Swallow Falls in desperate need of clean up. When Chester V (voiced by Will Forte), a renowned scientist, offers his services, Flint (Bill Hader) is ecstatic. Chester V, after all, is his childhood hero—the man who inspired him to become a scientist. Unbeknownst to Flint, however, Chester V has another plan: to find the FLDSMDFR, exploit it, and sell food bars with rather… unique ingredients.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is an unnecessary but tolerable sequel. It has plenty of puns for those entertained by them, colorful characters for young kids, and energy to somewhat distract from the story’s lack of depth. The key word is “somewhat” because when the film reaches slower moments, like when a character is required to do some soul-searching, it is all too obvious that there is nothing much behind the sugary confections.

There is imagination put into the images on screen. When Flint and his friends (Anna Faris, Brent McHale, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Earl Devereaux) visit a deeply vegetated island that is once their former home and discover that the place is filled with creatures that are a combination of food and animal, we are inspired to be as excited as the protagonists. Creatures like “sushrimp,” “watermelophants,” and “bananostriches” are fun to look at. The directors, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, are wise to not linger on the creatures too much.

The approach is usually drawing attention to a specific food-animal hybrid, from cuddly cute to downright bizarre, and onto the next one just as quickly. That way, it leaves us wanting to see more and appreciate the subtleties of the animation in terms of appearance and movement. When some of them appear later, it is usually a welcome surprise.

Aside from a sense of wonderment, the picture lacks real human emotions. It tries to inject some conflict involving Flint and the way he treats his father as well as Flint’s increasing distance from his friends because he so wants to impress his idol. But these are not explored in any meaningful way. When supposedly sad moments arrive, they do not feel a part of the natural progression of the story. The harder it tries to be touching, the more frustrating it becomes. It might have been better off without a typical dramatic arc—jokes from end and to end, quick, solid, and fulfilling.

Perhaps if the screenplay had aimed to be sharper, it might have tackled the subject of blind ambition. It would have been perfect: Flint the scientist who considers the people in his life as a source of strength versus Chester V, also a scientist, who has no one other than an orangutan (Kristen Schaal) who he refers to as a monkey and holograms of himself. Flint values not only his friends and family but also his creations. He feels responsible when things go right and when things go wrong. Chester V, on the other hand, is all about the final product—it doesn’t matter how it is achieved. If such had been established more firmly, there probably would have been a more potent conflict.


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