Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

US (2013) Dirs. Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn

After causing an almighty destructive food storm with his invention the FLDSMDFR, Flint Lockwood is approached by his idol, super inventor Chester V to work for his company Live Corp. Flint jumps at they offer, taking his friends – TV weather girl Sam Sparks, cameraman Manny, security guard Earl, monkey Steve and dim witted bully Brent – and father Tim with him. When they arrive Flint learns that the FLDSMDFR survived the explosion and has created a food world inhabited by killer foodstuffs. Chester needs the FLDSMDFR shut down so he sends Flint on a secret mission to find it.

Having won over audiences with is comic fantasy tale of a world when it rains food, it is hard to imagine that there is more to accomplish with the concept, especially since the first film deviated quite a lot from the original novels by Judi and Ron Barrett. But credit to writers John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein and Erica Rivinoja for finding a way to carry the idea forward with a new twist. Of course the big challenge is how to portray the sentient food – should they be feral or cute? The answer is both but this actually plays into the plot.

As a world renowned inventor Chester V has the requisite ego to match his reputation making his initial acts of altruism and philanthropy in relocating everyone from the wrecked Swallow Falls to San Franjose, California where Live Corp is. With little surprise for the audience and the supporting cast, but to the shock of Flint, Chester reveals his true colours and an evil masterplan. While Sam and the others smell a rat Flint is too enamoured to be in the presence of his idol and won’t hear a word said against him. Thus he has a choice to make – whether to join his friends in saving the foodimals or destroy them as Chester wants.

What are foodimals you ask? They are the inhabitants of the world created by the FLDSMDFR which are basically foodstuffs which have taken on living forms, many resembling animals. For instance you have a Cheesespider, which is a giant arachnid cheeseburger; there are also Shrimpanzees, Peanut Butter Jellyfish, Melonphants, Hippotatoes, Tacodiles and Bananostriches! Others are merely the usual kind of sentient foods one would find in any cartoon, children’s book, food packaging etc. That isn’t a criticism though as the animators have given the foods unique personalities and mannerisms to make them more distinctive.

Chief among them is Barry a small strawberry whom the group first encounter on the island and takes a shine to them, especially Flint, although he later shares his affection with Sam too. Barry will be a big hit with kids and the women too, with his big eyes and babyish smile epitomising cute and cuddly. Yes, he is a strawberry but he is also a merchandisers dream in the simplicity of his appeal, the same applying to some of the other foodimals. Elsewhere Tim befriends a group of pickles who he teaches how to fish (apparently sardines aren’t exempt from being spared from the um…food chain) while a family of marshmallows prove to have useful and innovative life saving skills.

Just as the Minions steal the show in the Despicable Me films, the foodimals will steal the hearts of the audience as they do the limelight from the main human cast; actually it should be pointed out that Chester’s No 2 is in fact an orang-utan with a human brain named Barb but she blends into the cast seamlessly enough, just as Flint’s monkey Steve does. The only cast member who couldn’t overshadowed even with a giant sun blocker is Earl the security guard. Formerly voiced by Mr. T, he is replaced by Terry Crewes (you’ll know his face even if you don’t know his name) who does a pseudo Mr. T impression while making the role his own. Earl is the brawn of the group and hilariously so, adopting a burly police officer persona at every turn to humorous effect.

Perhaps it’s me but the sight of Earl with his hands clasped together in the form of a gun and stalking the location never fails to make me giggle. The only other cast member who can raise a laugh is the stoic cameraman Manny, whose under-reaction to everything is the perfect yin to Earl’s ebullient yang. If only the rest of the group has such interesting personalities and weren’t subservient to the typical tropes.

While it was a brave move to use a non-canon story, what is presented here does illustrate the difference between novelists and Hollywood screenwriters; the former are free to experiment while the latter are bound by certain strict conventions that often stifle creativity. That isn’t to say there aren’t any fun and interesting ideas on hand here along with some cracking food related puns and jokes but the actual story is hardly inspiring, with the main antagonist using Flint in a bait and switch scenario to facilitate his evil plan for world domination.

However there is a serious point about respecting all living beings and their right to life which is noble and creates an interesting talking point, even if it is related to food. But that also is the problem – if all food stuffs, not just fruit and vegetables but processed foods and desserts, did come to life and we were to give it the same consideration as other humans and animals what do we eat? They didn’t think of that one while trying to tug at our consciences!

As expected Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 is a visual treat with plenty of laughs and fun action sequences. The story works well enough despite a few cavils but overall, the ambition to make a sequel that doesn’t just leech off the success of its predecessor pays off, giving us one of the better animated CGI sequels in a while.

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