There’s no way that transforming a picture book—a children’s picture book—is an easy task. A good deal of creativity needs to be put into it to mold the existing material into a story that will work within a 90 minute running time. But the folks at Sony Pictures Animation did just that with the classic book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, coming up with an entirely new story to fit with the theme of food that falls from the sky while also matching their brand of wacky humor, and now with their sequel to that 2009 film, they take it to a whole new level of zaniness with parodies, slapstick, and puns that are so bad they’re good.
Directed by Cody Cameron and Chris Pearn, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2”, a movie that almost didn’t happen—it has now been four years since the release of the first film—picks up exactly where things left off. Wannabe inventor Flint Lockwood’s (voiced by Bill Hader) machine that turns water into food has gone completely haywire, leaving their island Swallow Falls covered in everything from pies to cheeseburgers. Mastermind Chester V (Will Forte), who runs the Live Corp Company and is Flint’s hero, hires Flint as a way to get him off the island while he searches for the machine, which he wants to use for his own means. But when it’s discovered that the same machine is now churning out living food animals that are taking over the island, Chester sends Flint back to use his knowledge of the area to find it. Along with his friends Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), Earl (Terry Crews), Brent (Andy Samberg), Manny (Benjamin Bratt), monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), and dad Tim (James Caan), Flint returns to Swallow Falls and is forced to face everything from mischievous berries to ferocious tacodiles, soon realizing that stopping the creation of these miraculous creatures maybe isn’t such a good idea after all.
This film is essentially a slapsticky children’s version of “Jurassic Park”, but its silly sense of humor is amusing for adults too. The nice thing about a film like this, and like most of Sony Animation’s films, is that it doesn’t try to strive for realism, akin to Pixar or Dreamworks. It’s cartoony to the extreme, its characters moving in fluid, exaggerated motions that are similar in style to, say, the old “Looney Toons” shorts. It’s a nice, fresh change from what we’re used to seeing in mainstream animated movies nowadays, and is even at times mesmerizing to watch. The colors are bright and lovely, and the character design for the “foodimals” is cleverly done.
The humor is on the same level as the animation style. Sight gags and stupid jokes abound; just when you think they’ve run out of food-related puns, they throw more at you. After a while they get a little old and predictable, but they still manage to bring out a chuckle. The jokes are bad, and it’s obvious that the writers know that; that’s part of what makes it so amusing. Characters like the seemingly-tough-but-not-really Earl and Tim, who is so unlike his son, are also funny in and of themselves, and that helps. The message at the heart of the story is a generic one: Flint is swayed away from his friends, only to discover their importance to him later on. But it’s still told in a lively and engaging manner, so even though the adults may hem and haw a bit at times, they likely won’t be bored for long.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is probably slightly better than its predecessor, mainly because it is so much more creative—I mean, what other movies are you going to watch that have pie-thons?—and has an identifiable bad guy: the diabolical Chester V. And while the heart of the story isn’t anything new, the way it’s told is imaginative and different and just downright silly. Sometimes, you just need a movie like that, no matter how old you are.
Runtime: 95 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mild rude humor.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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