Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

I know they're making a "Jurassic Park 4", even though nobody particularly wants it and nobody really wants to make it.  So how about we just can that idea and instead give "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" the subtitle "Jurassic Park 4" and then live happily for the rest of our lives?*

The original "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" was a nice little kids' book that you can find in your local library and enjoy.  Go read that.  But as for this review, it is basically of no consequence, because to us the original "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" was a 2009 computer animated film featuring a strong comic style, bright cartoony animation, and a very strong plotline.  I recall that movie coming basically out of nowhere, only going to see it because I was babysitting my little cousins, and I needed them to be quiet for an hour and a half.  And shockingly, it turned out to be a brilliant little movie and one of the best and most warmhearted comedies of the last decade.  "Cloudy Meatballs" had its own manic style,  making food visual gags, satirizing the traditional Hollywood path of beauty (the heroine this time puts on the scrunchy and glasses, and is much better for it), and had a really strong character base well-suited for the comic nonsense to come.

I don't think I was alone in thinking that "Meatballs" would be another forgettable awful Cg animated film like "Robots" or "Over the Hedge", and instead found a film that was able to do amazing things with that medium without being Pixar or needing to copy Pixar's own style.  "Chance of Cloudballs" was precursor to otherwise fun comic animated films such as "Despicable Me" and "Rio" and well... the rest of the CG animated films have generally been crap or sequels**.  2013 has already had two silly well-made animated sequels with "Monsters University" and "Despicable Me 2", so where does "Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs 2" stack up?

Most sequels are inferior films and "Cloudy Meatballs 2" is no exception.  Its a very fun movie with its own sense of excitement and plenty of laughs.  Most of the film is an explosion of visual puns mixing food with creatures, based around a bright colorful universe of a food ecosystem.  But really, that's as far as the movie goes.  It has really adorable and fun monsters, lots of gags to go around with it, but not really much for its characters to do.  You'll find this is a fun time at the movies, but hardly an enriching one.

You really won't notice how flat "Chance of 2 Cloudy Meatballs" is while watching the film though, because the wild fun of its high Jurassic adventure will mostly cover up the flaws until your driving home really thinking about what you've seen.  A fairly large problem occurs when you realize that though the little anime Strawberry creature (named "Berry") is outrageously cute - I think a little too cute - he and his Hippopotatomuses and the Tacodile Supremes and the Butterfrogs all take up so much screentime I don't really think much of the characters themselves have much to do.

The plot involves Flint Lockwood, the one-time inventor of the food creating machine that in the last film created a small food apocalypse, being airlifted into San Franjose, a pretty obvious satire of the ultra-trendy silicon valley tech industries.  Ever since Chewandswallow, I mean Swallow Falls was completely covered by food, a dietary-based tech giant basically took over claiming to want to clean the place up.  The company is headed by a man with a light bulb-shaped head, who is pretty obviously the late Steve Jobs only with more holograms clones and a talking Great Ape assistant.  Flint has always admired light bulb-head guy, so working for him is a childhood dream.  Little does he know that light bulb-head is really using him to complete a sinister plot involving Swallow Falls' evolution into a Jurassic Park-esque ecosystem full of living food creatures, who supposedly will conquer the world.

As you might have guessed, this plot doesn't really give much room for Flint's meteorologist girlfriend, Sam Sparks, or his dad or really any of the characters from the first movie, most of which follow along merely out of sense of continuity.  There's a long standing plot point about Flint having to choose between his childhood hero and his friends, which combines with the question of what to do with the foodimals, but the result really isn't much in doubt.  Its conflict for conflict's own sake.  And really, most of the returning characters should have been removed entirely, Baby Brent especially doing nothing of importance at all.  Sam Sparks winds up communicating with the lovely foodimals and Flint's Dad teaches some cucumbers how to fish for sardines***, thus resurrecting Swallow Falls' original fallen economy, but that's on the high end of things.  Mr. T the policeman is tragically underused, and is now voiced by the well-intentioned but inferior Terry Crews.

The total dominance of this movie by the foodimals is clear even in the pacing.  When "Meatballs with a Chance of Cloudy 2" tries to make some topical humor about Apple or Google, it falls completely flat, and thus the opening half hour really isn't all that good.  But who even can remember those gags when you have chibi strawberries riding banana-horses that talk like dolphins?  Or living submarine sandwiches?  Or spider-burgers?

And to "Chance with a Cloudy of 2 Meatballs"' credit, it does still have quite a bit of the original movies' clever sense of awareness.  Light bulb Steve Jobs runs a corporation called "Live", which if you flip around, turns out to be really "EVIL"!!!  Characters routinely over-react to the amazing things around them, or spend a long time thinking up names for the walking puns.  So its not a movie that's even going to be boring and you really should go see it, but its also not a classic.

Really, its just like "Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World".   The plots' are pretty similar, and they're both obviously inferior to the original films.  But who is going to argue with a T-Rex wrecking San Diego?  Just like who is going to argue with a Tacodile Supreme?

*  And if we can somehow convince ourselves that this movie was also that godawful reboot of Robocop Hollywood has been threatening us with, that also be great.  Yeah, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" has nothing to do with Robocop, but neither does that reboot.  In fact, let us retire all reboots, remakes, re-imaginings, and movies with the subtitle "Resurrection" for all time.

** Any "Mars Needs Moms" fans out there?  I sure hope not.

*** By the way, I like sardines.  Open a can of sardines, make a sandwich out of them with a nice roll.  Then soak up the fish juices and olive oil with another roll.  That's a great lunch right there.


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  2. I'm not even sure who Mars needs Moms was supposed to appeal to, let alone what it was even trying to be. Thinking about it now, after I've watched it, it wasn't as good as the first, but it's self-aware jokes save it.

    I'm inclined to ask now: what do sardines taste like?