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Non-Review Review: Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is like an extended visual sugar hit. There’s always something happening, the characters seem in perpetual motion, and there’s never a moment where the audience is allowed to catch up. A technicolour marvel, there’s an endearing energy to all this, allowing the plot’s riff on classic monster movies (from King Kong to Jurassic Park) to become infectiously enjoyable. There are moments where the movie almost seems too sweet and too insubstantial, but they are only fleeting – there’s another neat visual gag, corny pun, or exciting slapstick joke only ever seconds away.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is hardly food for the soul, but it’s certainly a satisfying meal.

A berry good idea...

A berry good idea…

The sequel picks up almost immediately after the ending of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, following a incredibly quick bring-the-audience-up-to-date montage. Our hero Flint Lockwood finds himself and his friends temporarily relocated from their island home to the decidedly West Coast city of San Fran Jose, as the multi-national “Live” corporation tries to manage damage control on the site of the last movie’s food-related natural disaster. At the same time, Flint finds himself offered a job at the large corporation, working in the shadow of his childhood idol.

Even from that most basic of plot descriptions, it’s fairly easy to predict where Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is going. Indeed, there are very few plot twists and turns that come as a surprise. The script acknowledges this from time, playfully pointing out the formula being used (with an introductory “trip to the island” sequence designed as an homage to King Kong) and even handily foreshadowing these plot developments (the film’s magic “fix it” device is described as a “BS UBS” and it’s repeatedly identified as “unique and irreplaceable”, just before something bad happens).

Not so fast, cupcake...

Not so fast, cupcake…

That said, focusing on the plot of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is to miss the entire point of the exercise. The movie isn’t concerned with an over-arching plot beyond the broadest of outlines, with the writers and animators relishing the opportunity to fill in the blanks and to add the fine detail. After all, the very name Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs makes it clear that this is going to be a very visual journey, and the animation is top notch.

There’s a beautiful inventiveness to the animation, as the animators bring all manner of food stuffs – from “watermellephants” to “tacodile supreme” – to life. Even the first trip to the island, with slices of pie jutting out of the water like jagged rocks, and bananas forming a make-shift rib cage, is stunning. The movie’s sheer unadulterated joy at food-related puns (“there’s a leak in the boat!” is used twice) is contagious, and the creatures and their world – captured in technicolour glory – is an absolute joy to behold.

I don't think you're ready for this jelly(fish)sandwich...

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly(fish)sandwich…

The humour in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is very broad, so much that some of the corporate satire feels just a little out of place. The Live corporation is designed as a parody of various large West Coast technical companies, and these gags feel a little too specific for their own good. There are recognisable digs at Apple (the company’s head treated as a demagogue, the anticipated release of “Food Bar 8.0”) and Google (the inclusion of “evil” in their branding seeming a little… suspicious), but none of these really land as well as they should.

To be fair, some of the corporate humour works very well – I’m very fond of “thinkonaut” as a riff on “imagineer”, the cult of personality stuff feels spot-on, and I love the way Flint is given three coffees before he even reaches the lift. However, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 works better when it keeps the gags (and the moralising) reasonable broad. The head of the company, Chester V, never feels well enough developed to become anything more than a two-dimensional Steve Jobs parody, so he can’t really hold the narrative weight put upon him.

Food for thought?

Food for thought?

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 works a lot better when it keeps things simple. A low key subplot involving Flint’s father – Tim – teaching a bunch of sentient pickles how to fish after releasing that he hasn’t really done this with his own son has much more emotional resonance that the temptation of Flint by a massive multimedia empire. Part of this is gleeful absurdity of the plot, and the cartoonish off-the-wall-ness of the visual gags, but it’s also a much more relatable character moment.

Still, even if the rest of the movie’s emotional moments can’t measure up to a stoic old man teaching a bunch of self-aware pickles how to catch their own fish, the movie is still a joy to watch. Jokes come so thick and fast that it doesn’t matter if a couple miss here and there – there’ll be another wonderfully cheesy gag along shortly to make up. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is clever and energetic and funny. It might lack the depth and complexity of the strong animated films of recent years, but it’s still a treat worth tucking in to.

2 Responses

  1. One of my favorite children’s books that occupies a special spot on my bookshelf. I thought the first movie was fantastic and I cannot wait to see the second movie. Thanks for the review 🙂

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