Friday, September 27, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Review by Pete Roche

The sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 dinosaur blockbuster JURASSIC PARK warned moviegoers that “something has survived.”  Now the same holds true for meteorological cuisine in Swallow Falls, the fictitious town inundated by spaghetti twisters and precipitating pancakes in 2009’s CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS. 

Loosely based on the prize-winning 1978 children’s book by Ron and Judi Barrett, the cartoon caper sees inventor Flint Lockwood’s Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator machine convert water into burgers, pancakes, and spaghetti.  Of course, Flint’s machine (called the FLDSMDFR for short) goes haywire, and it’s only with a little help from his father and friends that the goofy scientist manages to halt the weird-weather calamity. 

But “Something was leftover,” to quote CLOUDY 2’s food-oriented spin on the LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK tagline.  Flint’s contraption evolves after the residents of Swallow Falls are forced to abandon the island, and now it regurgitates oversized food-animal hybrids that frolic freely in the okra underbrush and syrupy swamps.

Picking up where the first installment ended, CLOUDY 2 finds Flint (Bill Hader) and weathergirl love interest Samantha “Sam” Sparks (Anna Faris) conspiring to build a dream laboratory.  Former bully / sardine factory mascot Brent McHale (Andy Samberg) and athletic cop Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews) sign on to help, as does Flint’s monkey, Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), who “talks” with the aid of a Speak-n-Spell larynx.   

But the gang’s plans are postponed by the arrival of super-inventor Chester V (Will Forte) and his army of techno-suited geeks, who announce they’ve been contracted to clean up Swallow Falls and must relocate everyone in the interim.  Flint is invited to work for Chester V’s mega-company, Live World Corp, which professes to patent inventions and processes for the betterment of all mankind.  Lockwood is guided around the technologically advanced, caffeine-powered Live World campus by his mentor’s human-brained orangutan, Barb (Kristen Schaal), as Tim, Sam, and the rest settle in at cramped apartments on the mainland.

But Chester V isn’t the quite the noble genius Flint worshipped as a child.  Not so subtly modeled after Apple exec Steve Jobs, the Van Dyke-bearded Svengali is less concerned with furthering Lockwood’s career than he is with Flint’s apparently-discarded machine.  Imbued with slithering, Yoga-derived body language, the orange-vested Chester (and his holographic likenesses) has a scheme in mind for Swallow Falls that he doesn’t publicize to his Microserf minions at a grandiose gathering inside his light bulb-shaped shop.  And it involves dispatching Flint back to the island to deactivate the FLDSMDFR with a custom “BS USB” drive.

Against Chester’s wishes, Flint recruits Sam, Steve, Brent, and Manny the cameraman (Benjamin Bratt) to accompany him to Swallow Falls on his dad’s fishing boat.  Tim pines for a chance to reconnect with his daft son—preferably by fishing—but ends up casting a line with a quartet of sentient dill pickles. 

The protagonists soon discover Chester was right:  Lockwood’s apparatus still functions, and has transformed Swallow Falls and the surrounded waters into a veritable jungle and ocean of ambulatory, swimming foodstuffs.  They marvel at the fruit cockatiels, sasquash, wildebeets, and hippopotatomuses—but they’re chased by bananostriches, stalked by cheesespiders, terrified by tacodiles and apple pie-thons, and harangued by shrimpanzees.  Sam befriends a blabbering, infant-like strawberry at Live Corp outpost, whom she keeps hidden in her backpack when Chester V and Barb copter in to check on Flint’s progress.

Directed by Cody Cameron (voice of the pigs and Pinocchio in SHREK), CLOUDY 2 is a harmless—but often hilarious—cartoon lesson about choosing friends wisely and following one’s heart.  Eager to please his guru-like employer, Flint ignores Sam and the others and refuses to consider that maybe it’s Chester—not the foodimals—who pose the greatest threat.  Meanwhile, Barb learns the true meaning of friendship by watching Flint, Sam, and company brave obstacles that test their wits, wile, and trust in one another.  Every character notches a couple big laughs (particularly mischievous monkey Steve and Earl’s Alpha Male cop gone soft), and the music—composed by Akron’s own Mark Mothersbaugh (DEVO)—is fittingly quirky and hyperactive.  There’s also an eco-conscious message underpinning the narrative, which will surely fly over younger kids’ heads, but credit the writers for including the ever-topical conservationist agenda. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.


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