by Bob Garver
Sept. 30, 2013. The original “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was one of my favorite movies of 2009. The film was based on a book that I absolutely loved as a child, it gave the lead role to the awesome Bill Hader (though surprisingly it was Mr. T who stole the movie), and it was sweet and funny at every turn. Now comes this ill-advised sequel with no connection to the book, voice performances with no personality (and no Mr. T!), and humor that’s decent but not on the level of the original.
The film takes place minutes after the end of the first film. Flint Lockwood (Hader) has apparently destroyed his food/weather machine, but the small fishing island of Swallow Falls has been badly harmed. In comes science magnate Chester V (Will Forte) to evacuate everybody and offer Flint a job as an inventor. Flint tries his best to impress Chester V. but falls short and embarrasses himself. No matter, Chester V has an important mission for Flint: return to Swallow Falls and finish off his resilient machine, which is now churning out food/animal hybrids. Along for the adventure are Flint’s girlfriend Sam (Anna Faris), his fisherman father (James Caan), his loyal monkey Steve, Sam’s multi-talented cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt), tough cop with a sensitive side Earl (Terry Crews, replacing Mr. T), and bully-turned friend also turned chicken Brent (Andy Samberg).
First the good news: the film has plenty of parts that are funny. It’s hard not to fall in love with the food animals, especially a baby strawberry. The best gags seem to center around Flint’s father, with his charismatic eyebrow, his affinity for teaching watermelons how to fish, and a trophy catch that is hardly a trophy. Steve the money is welcome as always and admittedly Earl’s macho act still holds up with Crews doing his voice.
But I wouldn’t be saying “first the good news” if there wasn’t bad news to come. Flint is less likable this time around, with bossiness as his defining trait. Chester V is a predictable, underwhelming villain whose ulterior motives can be sensed way too early. The film goes to great lengths to argue that the food anumals are actually friendly, only for the argument to fall apart ironically at the film’s climax. Most unforgivable is that a lot of the humor is just subpar. Bathroom gags fall flat, as do bits about Flint’s useless inventions. The idea of food animals is funny at first, but there are only so many times you can hear hybrid names like Shrimpanzee before the act gets old.
There’s also something off about the voice performances. They’re so clearly read off a script and drained of life. I didn’t see much chemistry between the characters, and I was very aware that the roles were recorded separately. The Flint/Sam relationship, so touching in the first film, is now useless and forced. The relationship between Flint and his father fares a little better, but again falls short of its predecessor.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was just fine as a standalone film. It didn’t feel like a commercial for anything except maybe the book, whereas this one seems like it’s trying to sell toys of the food animals and Flint’s inventions. Sure, some of the humor works’ though it seems like the good, original ideas started and ended with the food animals. Once we get used to them, we’re left with a pretty lame movie. There are plenty of fruits and vegetables in “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” but that doesn’t stop the film from being cinematic junk food.
Two stars out of five.