Stars: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, Bruce Campbell | Written by John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein, Erica Rivinoja | Directed by Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn
Review by Glen Chapman
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 picks up immediately after the end of the first and we get to see the aftermath of the havoc caused by, Flint Lockwood’s turing water into food invention, the FLDSMDFR. The invention spiralling out of control has rendered Swallow Falls uninhabitable and the residents are temporarily relocated to San Franjose by famed super-inventor Chester V, whose Live Corp is responsible for the clean up of Swallow Falls. This is great for Flint as he idolises Chester V and jumps at the chance to work as an inventor for Live Corp as he looks to join the elite group of talented inventors selected to wear the orange vests. 6 months later the displaced citizens are still no closer to returning home until Flint is selected by Chester V to return to Swallow Falls to locate his invention after a number of the orange vested employees went missing shortly after raising a distress signal warning of dangerous food based creatures terrorising the island. Flint and friends return to Swallow Falls but soon discover things aren’t quite as they were lead to believe.
The positives first then; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is damn funny; it gets off to a hell of a start and for the most part maintains a decent pace and keeps the jokes coming thick and fast. The voice cast are on top form, as you would expect considering it includes some of the finest comedy talent working today and true legend of cinema in James Caan. It’s certainly a strong follow up to the original and whilst the creative team is different it still captures the same feel.
For all it’s successes the film does suffer from the fact that it isn’t as tightly constructed as it’s predecessor and the fact that the antagonist is a little weak. Still, it’s certainly much better than it could have been. The fact that Lord and Miller weren’t returning as directors did cause some concern as to whether the film would be able to honour the first, Lord and miller were involved in story only but Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn and their creative team have done an admirable job in their replacement by managing to capture the tone, style and for the most part the humour.
It wasn’t just the directorial pair who didn’t return for the sequel; Mr T and Bobb’e J Thompson didn’t return for their roles of Earl and Cal Devereaux, but this doesn’t pose a major problem. Mainly because Cal’s role is so slight that the absence of Thompson isn’t really noticed and the fact that Terry Crews is a significant improvement over Mr. T. Not only does he absolutely nail the vocal delivery it seems like this is a role that he was born to play, given the fact that he bears a striking resemblance to Earl Devereaux as seen in the picture of him in full costume that did the rounds a few months back.
The love Earl had for Cal was a huge driving force for his motivations in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and the way his emotions and protectiveness for his son overwhelmed him was hugely touching so it’s sad that this element doesn’t really exist here. The first film dealt with Father son dynamics in as effective way as I’ve seen for a film of its type; you have the aforementioned extreme example of overwhelming love between Earl and Cal but the relationship between Flint and Tim was very different. Their relationship was strained as beyond being siblings they have very little in common and struggle to relate to one another; the tragedy of the loss of Mrs Lockwood obviously strained their relationship as both seemed to have drifted apart as they coped with the loss in their own way; Flint driven by ambition to create and seek the approval of his father and Tim who just wanted to connect with his son in a simple way by sharing time with him and enjoying the simple things. Of course they are far apart from what they want from each other.
The emotional sophistication in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is often overlooked as many focus on the madcap humour, but the exploration of the aforementioned father son relationships is incredibly effective and adds another layer to an incredibly rich film. It’s sad then that this element is effectively cut in half with the removal of the Earl and Cal relationship, but there is further exploration of the Flint and Tim dynamic as Flint again remains incredibly driven and Tim accepts his sons ways and sets out to support him. How the pair are brought together by Tim finding kindred spirits to enjoy fishing with is quite effective and a nice payoff to this element of the story.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 also differs from the first in that there’s a definitive antagonist, sure the Mayor (voiced magnificently by Bruce Campbell) pushed Flint’s buttons and influenced him in a negative way leading to things spiralling out of control, but ultimately he wasn’t malicious; merely an idiot who got a bit greedy. He we have someone with a clear nefarious agenda and it’s hard to argue that the film benefits from it. The humour, characters and the relationships are what make the first film so memorable and re-watchable so introducing a traditional antagonist who’s neither memorable or particularly effective is something of a mis-step.
It would be easy to take a cynical view of the choice to introduce a plethora of new cutesy characters as a marketing opportunity, but given the fact that there appears to be very little merchandise to support the release is something of a surprise (Yes, I’ve checked). The lack of a talking Steve plush is an outrage.
I regard Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs as a 5 star movie; it’s consistently hilarious, has emotional depth, engaging throughout and endlessly re-watchable. With that in mind the fact that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 represents a slight drop off in each of the key categories and the jury is out as to whether it will hold up well on repeat viewing (it’s hard to see that it will to the level of the first) means that it falls someway short of the heights of the first. Even so, I feel comfortable recommending this sequel highly. Even with the drop off in quality being apparent the fact remains that Cloudy 2 is a highly entertaining film that represents solid fun for all the family. I saw it in a packed cinema with ages ranging from my two year old daughter through to grandparents attending with their grandchildren and the audience was engaged and entertained throughout. The fact that it does this without demonstrating the level of pandering in some films aimed at kids is quite impressive.
It’s worth noting that the end credits are well worth sitting through as there are some tremendous jokes throughout in addition to a mid credits scene, which in fairness adds very little and is nowhere near the quality of the rest of the credits but the fact that they’re included does provide an extra incentive to stay and take in the names of those who clearly worked so hard to put the film together.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is in cinemas across the UK now.