While Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 might not be directly created by the same writers and directors as the first incredibly delightful and hilarious animated outing, the sequel might actually be a tad bit better than the previously high set bar. A non-stop barrage of clever sight gags, relentless one liners, a liberal sprinkling of puns, and just as much heart, it’s in every way an equal and a worthy continuation of a story that would have been difficult to make a sequel from in the first place.
Picking up 8 minutes after the first film ended, the town of Swallow Falls is evacuated to begin the cleanup effort after loveably dimwitted inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced once again by Bill Hader) created a storm full of weather with his latest invention. The facilitator of this clean up is a bizarre Steve Jobs and Galen Weston Jr. hybrid named Chester V (Will Forte), a scientist and meal replacement bar magnate that Flint has idolized since childhood. Chester moves the whole town to his home base of San Franjose, and while Flint bumbles his way through trying to get a high level position at Chester’s LIVE Corp., his friends begin to wonder why it’s taking six months to move back home. The delays are realized when Chester sends Flint back home – with his friends tagging along for support – and the town has become a refuge for living, breathing, potentially man-eating foodstuffs.
Taking over for former Clone High supervisiors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (currently working on 22 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, but still receiving story credit here) are animators Cody Cameron and Kris Pern in the director chairs and the team of John Frances Daly and Jonathan M. Goldstein (Horrible Bosses, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) and former Clone High staff writer Erica Rivinoja for the writing squad. It would be hard to tell that anything had really changed between the first and second films. It’s just as whip-smart with the jokes, and it might be more visually impressive and imaginative than the first film. Any doubt that a regime change would have caused the product to suffer is quickly done away with after the opening recap sequence of the first film.
The jokes here are fresh and inspired instead of mere retreads of the first film. It continues in the same satirical vein of skewering consumer culture, but this time with a keener eye towards the environment being created by it. There’s something deliciously satisfying about seeing pre-packaged synthetic energy bars and caffeine being inherently more evil than the actual food it’s trying to take the place of. Sure, there are plenty of purposefully groanworthy puns (“There’s a leek in the boat!”), hilarious MacGuffins (the Swallow Falls situation can only be stopped by a cheekily named device) and thoughtful blink-or-you’ll miss them callbacks to the first film, but it’s all done with a vibrant spirit and with tongue squarely in cheek.
At first a silly lampooning of tech culture, the film’s visual inventiveness takes over when our heroes and villains return to Swallow Falls to shut down the run amok FLDSMDFR from the first film. What they come back to is an entirely new, almost Jurassic Park-like eco-system where the food has evolved and become sentient. There are Cheespiders, hippotatoes, watermelephants, shrimpanzees, and all matter of interesting creatures inhabiting the island, but instead of being lazy puns, the filmmakers work hard to make sure that each creature has its own set of dynamics and emotional beats. They all react differently and aren’t used solely as sight gags in the background of shots or to get the plot moving faster. They are actual non-speaking characters that become just as easy to care about and fear as the humans. It’s the one thing that this production adds to the first one to increase the level of difficulty and ingenuity, and it pulls it off wonderfully.
Hader’s just as great as the sympathetic, but incredibly naieve Flint, who here is forced to choose between his dream job and his friends. Forte attacks the villainous role with great aplomb and silliness. Kristen Schaal joins the cast as Chester’s studious, but often put-upon ape assistant, bringing her own trademarked dry sarcasm to the film. Terry Crews replaces Mr. T as former Swallow Falls police officer Earl Devereaux in the only casting change between the films, but it’s a perfect substitution. Also returning to their roles and the new journey are Anna Faris (as Flint’s love interest and meteorologist friend), Manny the cameraman (Benjamin Bratt), former bully and chicken suit enthusiast Brent (Andy Samberg), Steve the Monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), and Flint’s chronically unimpressed father (James Caan). Unlike many “let’s get the band back together” sequels that come from a first film where everyone didn’t really like each other at the start, the story and talents of everyone involved here make this film feel like a natural progression and extension of the first film rather than slapped together silliness.
But perhaps the best thing that can be said about Cloudy 2, is that exactly like its predecessor it’s equally hilarious for adults as it is for kids. It’s the highest compliment that could be paid to such a film, and thankfully it works just as well as the surprise hit that spawned it. I guess the worst that can be said for it is that every compliment paid for the first film carries over to this one and to say much more would mean I would be repeating myself.