'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2' Review

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Sony Pictures

If you’re feeling flummoxed by the mess of half-food/half-animal supporting characters that populate the charming animated sequel ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,’ it’s fully understandable – the “foodimals” (including hip-potato-muses, watermelo-phants, chee-spiders, and sush-eep) were not present in the first film. Instead of aping the original film, co-directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn have made ‘Cloudy 2’ their own (delicious) beast, riffing on the first feature and evolving things in a most unexpected manner.

After a quick round of ketchup (er – catch up) as to the events of the last film (in short – hapless inventor Flint Lockwood, voiced by Bill Hader, made a machine that turned weather into food, scrumptious hijinks ensued), the film picks up mere minutes after its predecessor ended. Flint’s island home of Swallow Falls is still inundated with food, and while everyone is pleased the Flint’s pesky FLDSMDFR has been destroyed and it’s stopped raining pizza and snowing ice cream, all those giant entrees aren’t going anywhere on their own.

Enter Flint’s childhood hero, Chester V (voiced by Will Forte), a brilliant scientist and inventor whose Live Corp - “the hippest company in the world” - has been dispatched by the UN (sure!) to clean up the food-soaked island. Though the residents of Swallow Falls must be temporarily displaced during the efforts, Chester vows it will be over before they know it - and, as a special bonus, Flint is to come work for Live Corp in interim. It sure seems like a sweet deal, at least until the seemingly zenned-out Chester manically giggles about his evil plan to a hologram version of himself, just as Flint and crew are gleefully shipping out to San Franjose, California to start their new (short term) lives. What’s afoot, Chester, you wacky Steve Jobs wannabe?

Through a series of predictably harebrained mishaps, Flint soon finds himself at the mercy of Chester and his human-brained baboon sidekick Barb (amusingly voiced by Kristen Schaal), and forced to return to Swallow Falls to aid in a clean up that’s not going so well. What’s the problem? Oh, nothing major – just that the FLDSMDFR is clearly still working, though it’s now turning food into foodimals, hybrids that appear to be murderous, malicious, and delicious. And we thought giant meatballs were something to be feared.

The new Swallow Falls that Cameron and Pearn have crafted for Flint and his comrades (including Anna Faris’ Sam Sparks, James Caan’s Tim Lockwood, Andy Samberg’s Brent McHale, Benjamin Bratt’s Manny, Neil Patrick Harris’ monkey Steve, and Terry Crews’ Earl Devereaux) to return to is both jaw-dropping and mouth-watering. If the large, weather-based food of the first film is an appetizer, the lush, foodimal-laden jungle is a whole meal. Amusingly assembled and animated from equal parts goofy puns and good-natured family-friendly fun, ‘Cloudy 2’ is a visual feast (had to do it) the entire clan will want to gobble up. Populated by an increasingly funny and adorable series of foodimals (from the sweet little strawberry Barry all the way up to the terrifying Tacodile Supreme), ‘Cloudy 2’ charms on the strength of its creativity and willingness to be extra-cheesy.

Tasked with finding the FLDSMDFR and shutting it down with Chester’s “BSUSB,” Flint’s goals are swiftly at odds with the emotions and beliefs of his best friends, all of whom are appropriately wowed by sweet little berries, funny fishing pickles, coconut milk swimming holes, and sticky syrup bogs (complete with prickly mosquit-oasts). When Chester and the a troop of his Live Corp co-horts descend on the island (outfitted in trademark vests and robotic suits that look like, of all things, small Jaegers ripped right out of ‘Pacific Rim’), Flint is forced to choose between his big professional dreams and not destroying a place that’s managed to make a combination of shrimps and chimpanzees (yes, shrimp-anzees, of course) that are strangely huggable.

Sure, it may seem like an easy choice, but Cameron and Pearn try to illustrate the strength of Flint’s struggles in a way that should feel relatable to both a kiddie audience and their attending adults. The film’s final third is rife with weirdly convoluted plot twists and motivation reveals that seem stuffed in merely to stir up drama, but the strangely emotional response to the potentially eradicated foodimals adds all the drama and tension the film could ever need. Didn’t think you could care about an anthropomorphic pack of berries or a wild scallion that looks like a dinosaur? ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ should fix that for you in quite the filling manner.

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