25 October 2013


Back in 2009, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller announced themselves with Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, one of the most pleasant surprises of the cinematic year. Loaded with great gags, memorable characters and the kind of self-effacing charm that comes naturally when proclaiming itself to be "a film by a lot of people", it stands as one of the best family comedies of recent years.

Inevitably, that means that Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 comes with much more expectation loaded upon it, but that's not to say that it doesn't measure up. Picking up seconds after the original left off, the inhabitants of Swallow Falls are evacuated from the island so that a company called Live Corp can clean up the mess made by inventor Flint Lockwood's food machine. Six months later, the company's CEO recruits Flint to go back to Swallow Falls, which is now its own edible ecosystem, packed with living food animals, to shut down his invention for good.

If there's any real letdown about this sequel, which credits Lord and Miller with producing and coming up with the story, it's that the story feels more generic than the first one. Aside from the surprise of just how funny it was, and the frenetic and distinctive visual language in which it was delivered, the first one was generally fairly unpredictable for a children's film. Cloudy 2, by contrast, has the plot of a much more rote animated sequel, with a mentor figure who has nefarious purposes, and an obligatory re-training course on the value of friendship.

On the other hand, it's enacting those more familiar story bits within a story world where a mad machine has converted water into giant food creatures. A great deal of enjoyment comes from the ingenuity of the character design, and an irresistible predilection for food related puns. Tacodiles and watermelephants romp all over the screen, and the parade of "foodimals" generally echo one of the most enjoyable parts of Dreamworks' The Croods, from earlier this year.

As in part one, the real joy is in the vibrancy of the characters, as much for the vocal work as the design. At the same time as you question why they get Neil Patrick Harris for a character who only speaks in single word sentences, altered to a higher pitch, it's always nice when an animated film features voice actors acting, instead of just speaking. To that effect, returning stars Bill Hader and Anna Faris fill their characters with life, while Terry Crews does an admirable job of filling in for Mr. T, as manic, manly police officer Earl, and Kristen Schaal brings real pathos to a chimpanzee secretary called Barb.

Most importantly, it's still really, really funny. It's just as adept as setting up sight gags about Flint's inventions that pay off in the larger plot later on as the first film, and even if some of the puns are cringeworthy out of context, they're always delivered hilariously. An early encounter with a strawberry called Barry threatens to tip into the easy cuteness of certain characters in other animated films, but pays off magnificently with a gag that had me laughing uncontrollably, right before the climax of the film. You can't discount great, clean comedy.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 may not be as surprising as its predecessor, but it's just as delightful. The lovable cast of characters, old and new, are its greatest asset, and they always give way to some great comedy. It's tough to see where the franchise could possibly go from here, if a third film is greenlit, but to get two very funny, imaginative and visually enthralling feature films out of a 32 page children's book isn't bad going, and I'll be more than happy to see whatever it is that "a lot of people" do next.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen 
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2  why not share your comments below? Even if you don't like puns, I defy you to keep a straight face at the leek gags.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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