A regrettable mishmash of twitchy animation, underdeveloped
story, overwrought designs and poor direction, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 continues this summer’s string
of bad animated features.
The original Cloudy
(2009) didn’t exactly cry out for sequel, but the new film picks up where first left off. The food storm has ended, and
the inhabitants of Swallow Falls are evacuated from their island home to a San
Francisco-esque city while a clean up takes place. Flint Lockwood (voice by Bill
Hader) joins the Live Corp Company, a firm that hires inventors but produces
food bars. It’s run by the TV star who was Flint’s childhood hero, scientist Chester
V (Will Forte).
Chester is presented as a something of a spoof of the late
Steve Jobs. He greets people with “Namaste” and pitches the glorious future his
products and his brilliance promise. Apple culture might be ripe for a send-up,
but the gimmick comes across as tasteless. Worse, it’s crashingly unfunny.
The Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating
Dynamic Food Replicator (or FLDSMDFR), the machine that produced the
rain of food, has started turning out animal-food hybrids for reasons that are never
adequately explained. Chester sends Flint to stop the machine, telling him the
monsters want to destroy the Statue of Liberty. Although the assignment is supposed
to be secret, Flint brings along all his dubious pals: meteorologist Samantha
Sparks (Anna Faris), doofus Brent McHale (Andy Samberg), Steve the monkey (a
wasted Neal Patrick Harris), chest hair-obsessed cop Earl Devereaux (Terry
Crews, replacing Mr. T) and Flint’s fisherman-father Tim (James Caan). Overseeing
the mission is Chester’s assistant, Barb (Kristen Schaal), an orangutan with a boosted
IQ, who has nothing to do until she serves
a simian ex machina.
Flint and his chums discover the food-animals aren’t out to
destroy Lady Liberty or take over the world. They’re nice and even cute.
Chester V is actually a bad guy who’s just out to make money. Why “Live” is (gasp) “evil” spelled backwards! Flint and his friends rally the food-animals and
defeat Chester with the help of Barb, who undergoes a last minute change in
loyalty because her boss calls her a monkey, rather than an ape.
Cloudy 2 borrows
heavily and, sometimes shamelessly, from Jurassic
Park 2, Avatar, How to Train Your Dragon, The Matrix 2 and Despicable Me. There are a few clever bits involving the
food-creatures, including giant scallions that arch their stalks like the necks
of the sauropod dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
But even that shot is badly framed, and what should be a hilarious reveal is
just another cluttered scene. The pickles that join Tim turns into warty green
versions of the Minions from Despicable
Me. Sam befriends a giant cheeseburger-spider in a scene lifted directly from
How to Train Your Dragon, but less
Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn never give the
viewer’s eye a place to focus. The frame seems to overflow with details that
contribute nothing to the story, but prove that computers can render zillions
of little shapes and colors. The mountains of rock candy that surround the FLDSMDFR
sparkle, reflect and refract – and keep the audience from following the story
point. The scenes are so needlessly cluttered that when Steve sets off party
bomb that splatters everything with splotches of Day-Glo color, it doesn’t have
much effect because there’s already too much color on the screen.
When Brad Bird pushed the computer animation of humans in a cartoonier
direction in the Incredibles, other
studios followed suit. But Cloudy
veers off in a weird direction. In some scene, the characters limbs snap and wriggle
like jump ropes. In the late 20’s/early 30’s, the Fleischer artists used rubbery
movements for the bizarrely drawn characters. Koko and Betty Boop were “made of
pen and ink” and didn’t pretend to imitate reality. The outre style simply doesn’t
work in the solid, dimensional world of CG, especially when the characters have
realistically rendered hair and textured clothes.
After reviewing this year’s often disappointing box office
tallies, some pundits have begun asking whether there’s a glut of CG animated
films on the market.
Yet Cloudy with a Chance
of Meatballs 3 is probably already in the works.