Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 ReviewOctober 13, 2013
2013 has been quite a year for animated franchises. In this year alone, we have gotten sequels, spin-offs and prequels to animated films such as Monsters, Inc., Despicable Me, Cars, and now the surprise hit Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Now that the original directing and writing team Phil Lord and Chris Miller (also known for last year’s 21 Jump Street) have moved on to write and direct The Lego Movie, the weight is on Sony’s shoulders to live up to the success of the original. In the end, is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 a worthy second helping?
Literally seconds after the end of the first film, we see crackpot young inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and his new girlfriend and rookie meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) sharing a kiss. The two, along with others such as Flint’s father (James Caan), police chief Officer Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews), the legendary Brent McHale (Andy Samberg) and Sam’s cameraman (Benjamin Bratt) agree to build a new laboratory together as the citizens of Swallow Falls make a resolve to clean up their destroyed city. However, soon prolific inventor and Flint’s role model Chester V (Will Forte) – CEO of Live Corp – arrives via helicopter and announces that he has a plan of his own for cleaning up the town. This entails that the citizens need to relocate to San Jose, California; even though they are reluctant to do so, they all agree and soon they begin a new life. Some time passes, though, and soon Chester sees that his plan has failed. In response, Flint and his friends return to the island to investigate the problem, and hopefully find a solution to the issue at hand: an enormous ecosystem of living animals that could threaten the globe.
I really shouldn’t have enjoyed Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 as much as I did. There are certainly many issues with the storyline, particularly that it follows a very familiar structure. Every emotional beat you would expect to see here is hit, while there isn’t really much that is special about the story to begin with. Still, where the movie rises over Despicable Me 2 – this year’s big animated film, which didn’t work for me – is that it never loses energy, or focus for that matter, while it also has a consistent amount of laughs. I would actually put this movie on par with the original since it is just 90 minutes of pure fun, and since the filmmakers never took the story seriously that adds another layer of enjoyment as well. There are also some fun jokes centered on environmentalism – Chester V is also an obvious knock on Steve Jobs – but thankfully they don’t get overly preachy. At a point the food puns that were hinted at in the trailers become tiresome, but at least that isn’t the only source of humor. Rest assured that not only is Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 a purely fun film, it has a decent story rooted in character.
The voice work in this film is also quite good, as it generally is in most studio animated pictures. The important thing is that the cast obviously had fun spouting off this dialogue, which was certainly infectious in the theater I saw this in. Bill Hader has fully embraced his role as Flint Lockwood while James Caan is still enjoyable as his father, a complete mental and physical opposite. Anna Faris is once again delightful as Sam Sparks, while Andy Samberg is good voicing a variation on his usual characters and Benjamin Bratt provides for some subtle laughs as well. I also think that Terry Crews is a better fit for Officer Devereaux than Mr. T was; in my opinion, he’s one of the funniest African American actors working today. Will Forte was also fun as Chester V, but certainly not as great as he could have been.
If Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 wasn’t necessarily inventive in a narrative sense, Sony Pictures Animation made up for that with visual creativity. This film is full of bright, colorful visuals that will be a treat for the eyes regardless of whatever format you see it in, and this is especially true for the film’s many food animals as well. From all the amusing animals that we get to see in this film, it is clear that this was a project that was simply enjoyable for the filmmakers to work on, unlike most studio-driven animated sequels. The overall look of this film is solid, even if it is not necessarily technologically advanced over its predecessor. Mark Mothersbaugh also delivers a solid enough musical score, although it is certainly not on the same level as the work he did for some of Wes Anderson’s earlier films such as Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.
I am not saying that this is the animated film to see this year: I am still wondering if that film will be Disney’s Frozen. For now the best animated film of the year thus far is Monsters University. Even so, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is simply a fun time at the movies, elevated by a solid, non-preachy storyline that can teach one about the importance of protecting wildlife. Just make sure that you don’t go to this film hungry though, because halfway through you will want to spend all of your hard-earned cash at the concession stand. That is what happens when you center a comedy around delicious, living food.