Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
Stars: voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Andy Samberg, Kristen Schaal, Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn, Melissa Sturm.
This is an unnecessary sequel to Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, the 2009 animated film based on a 32-page illustrated book from Judi and Ron Barrett. But the original was a huge hit at the box office, raking in some $240 million worldwide, so we get this obligatory sequel.
The first film was an original, inventive and fresh animated comedy about an obsessive young inventor named Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), who developed a machine with the unwieldy name of the Flint Lockwood Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, which could transform water into food. But rather than becoming the answer to world hunger and poverty, the machine went haywire and eventually caused a natural disaster, raining meatballs onto his hometown of Swallow Falls. Instead of becoming a hero, Flint was embarrassed and blamed for the catastrophe that befell the town and he is eager to redeem himself.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 takes up the story almost immediately after the events of that first film, and it takes the material in a different direction. And while it has a lot of energy, the film somehow lacks the freshness and humour of the original. Flint has been hired by the global Live Corp company, which is run by his childhood hero, the legendary inventor Chester V (voiced by SNL‘s Will Forte), whose reputation is based on developing the food bar. But rather than being given a chance to shine as an inventor, Flint finds himself merely a coffee-addicted drone, toiling away trying to invent something that will impress Chester and earn him a prestigious position within the company.
Then to his surprise he is chosen to return to his former home town and help with the clean up. But Flint soon discovers that Chester has his own sinister agenda, especially when he learns that his FLDSMDFR is still operational and has created a lot of hybrids known as “foodimals”, like the Big Mac spider, tacodiles, and even mosquitoasts, etc, that are running amok. Chester wants the machine for his own nefarious purposes, and it is up to Flint and his motley crew to stop him.
Having initially turned his back on his friends, Flint is keen to make amends. He is accompanied on this mission by his fisherman father Tim (a suitably gruff James Caan), the eager fellow adventurer and potential love interest the tomboyish television weather girl Sam Sparks (a perky Anna Faris), her cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt), the childlike Brent (Andy Samberg), the officious former cop Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews, replacing Mr T), and the mischievous monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris).
This sequel lacks the anarchic concept and winning humour of the original and comes across as a misguided riff on Jurassic Park, The Island Of Dr Moreau, and any other number of sci-fi films about man made creations out of control on a remote island. Six writers have laboured over the script for this one, including original writers and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and Erica Rivinoja, a writer on South Park.
Taking over the directorial reins are Cody Cameron (the straight to DVD animated Open Season 3), a veteran voice actor in animated films, and veteran animator Kris Pearn, making his feature film debut. But their handling of the material is a little heavy handed and they belabour most of the puns and the visual humour. There is plenty of lively animation and the film is certainly vibrantly coloured and looks good in 3D.
But it is a little too long, a little dull, and too plot heavy for younger audiences, and there is probably not enough substance here to engage adults. The subtext about corporate greed, the dangers of genetic engineering, and corrupt business practices may be lost on the younger fry as well, while the universal themes of friendship, family, taking responsibility for your actions will resonate with older audiences. However, young kids will enjoy the scene-stealing antics of Steve the monkey. The original voice cast has returned for this sequel although some characters have seen their roles expanded somewhat.
Ultimately though this second helping of Meatballs is not as tasty or as satisfying as the first serving.