Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 review

2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is an inventive, original, cool animated film that also contains a heart. It's also very entertaining. So, it's not surprising that after a fun trailer, I was really looking forward to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, the sequel to that film. This one focuses on the island of Swallow Falls after the food machine started going berserk. The machine is now turning all the food into this kind of food/animal hybrid which makes for chaos. It's a crazy, madcap premise, one that seems almost perfect for the Cloudy franchise. However, a lack of focus, an extreme case of ADD, and major story problems, prevent this movie from being anywhere nearly as good as the first one. In fact, I wouldn't even say that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a good movie in its own right. It's a lackluster animated film that's trying way too hard to entertain. It's funny, it's cute, and the kids are sure to love it, but this is not an animated film that has any potential beyond its target group.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 continues the story of Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), the miraculous inventor of the food machine that provided food from the sky to the people of Swallow Falls. However, after the machine went out of control, the island was abandoned and the food machine left to rot. It didn't. The food machine kept making food, but this time, turning it into a food/animal hybrid, making creatures like the Watermelephants and the Tacodiles. When a fellow inventor (Will Forte) tells Flint that the food animals are trying to take over the world, Flint assembles his meteorologist girlfriend Sam (Anna Faris), his dad Tim (James Caan), his town's former idol Brent (Andy Samberg), his pet monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), the cameraman Manny (Ben Bratt) and a police officer (Terry Crews) to go back to Swallow Falls. Madness and food puns ensues.

Let's start off with the good things. The animation is splendid. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 actually seems like a movie that is tailor made for me. I love colorful, fun animated films and this looked like one of them. Too bad it suffers from a lack of focus. Also, the movie is very funny. There were a couple things that I actually laughed out loud at and it actually keeps a manic, funny tone throughout. There's also some solid work from the voice cast. However, beyond all of this positive design and a good sense of humor, I thought that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was a mess.

The film begins with a montage of the events of the first film. Not a good sign. It goes on to pick up immediately after the ending of Cloudy except this time, it highlights the arrival of Chester V, an idol of Flint. He tells him to work for his company. There's a brief tour and then it jumps ahead six months, before finally hopping to Swallow Falls. It's a quick paced, dazzlingly fast start and it's slightly disorienting for people that prefer a bit more story building. Overall, a rough start, but not outright bad.

The second act takes place entirely on Swallow Falls. It's when the movie turns to mush. It's lackluster, frenetic entertainment. The second act of the film seems to consist entirely of vague plotting, hints at the villain's motivation, and a barrage of food puns. It just throws things at you repeatedly until you are completely numb. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 also attempts to throw in some heart, with nice messages about friendship, honesty, trust and being happy with the people around you. In the end, it's a film that parents will adore for their children. It's got everything that they could want in a nice, harmless, poop and pee joke kids movie (nothing wrong with that, actually it can be quite funny). But in the end, Cloudy 2 makes all the wrong moves when it comes to plot points, focus and characters. Let's elaborate on that slightly.

The villain of the film has a goal. He wants to achieve something. For the sake of people who want to see the movie, I won't spoil it here. But instead of giving us real information about the villain's intentions, Cloudy 2 chooses to throw us hints. They point out that something sinister is going on with one of the characters, but they never elaborate until it's absolutely necessary. That disappointed me and left me confused and un-involved with the plot.

Second, as I've already stressed, this movie is purely made for kids, while I feel like the original had crossover appeal for adults as well. It's a big mess at times, with ten minute stretches seeming to be a massive montage of food puns and chase sequences between the characters and creatures like the Tacodile. It's appealing for young children, but it never does anything for adults. I feel like that's a general disconnect in animated films these days. There's great animation for the kiddies and it's colorful as all get out, but it never truly amounts to being an interesting story. Even Dreamworks has fallen victim to that lately (The Croods had a good heart though, this film doesn't).

I saw this at an advanced screening in 3D. The 3D is actually mildly impressive, but I got great seats and I know that the studio attempts to make the 3D look great at the public advanced screenings. The kids in the audiences were attentive to the film, which makes me wholeheartedly recommend this film for young children. The film actually saves itself from outright failure in the third act, but it doesn't quite make it a good movie. It's still a mess through two acts. I think that there's a lot of potential for this franchise, but they're going to need a much stronger story next time to make this a memorable film.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                            (5.5/10)

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