Saturday, March 8, 2014

Quick Cut Review - "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2"

Directed by:  Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Terry Crews, James Caan and Neil Patrick Harris
Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes  
Release Date: September 27, 2013

The first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (henceforth known as CWACOM) was a delightful, imaginative and charming little family film based on the children's book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett. It was also a very unassuming and smaller scale film, making any success it had a pleasant surprise. Well, to everyone's surprise it went on to become a modest success at the box office and found an even bigger audience when it was released into the home market. So of course, the studio found the need to capitalize on that success by supplying us with a sequel that has the unfortunate side effect of creating expectations and excitement where there wasn't any before.

For the sequel, unsurprisingly called Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (henceforth known as CWACOM2), it had the spotlight put upon it and was expected to repeat the surprise success of the first film, this time with plenty of pressure that wasn't there before. It is also unfortunate that the sequel had no source material to pull from and is an original story NOT by the creators of the book. More and more the idea of a sequel seems like a studio trying to reap the benefits of a popular brand than trying to make a good film.

Luckily for us, and the filmmakers, CWACOM2 is every bit as delightful, imaginative and charming as its predecessor even though it doesn't feel quite as fresh the second time around. While it loses some major points for a distinct lack of originality with a story that borrows heavily from films such as King Kong and Jurassic Park, both of which were never praised for their stories, it does make up for it by expanding upon the original story from the first film and adding a neat twist to Flint's FLDSMDFR device that he used to create all the food. This is where the similarities between those aforementioned films comes into play as many of the characters from the first film are thrown into this adventure through a mysterious island filled with some very interesting and very cute little critters called Foodimals.

The Foodimals, which are basically different types of food that just so happen to resemble animals related to that certain type of food, are without a doubt the sequel's greatest inclusion. While all the familiar characters from the first film are still a lot of fun, the pun-heavy Foodimal concoctions such as the Shrimpanzee, Watermelonphant and the Tacodile...Supreme!, keep the sequel from succumbing to its rather plain and ordinary trimmings. There are some problems that even the Foodimals can't distract from though unfortunately.

The inclusion of a villain this time around, which the first film was thankfully free of, is a bit disappointing and leads to a final showdown that can be seen a mile a way. Also, there isn't any real growth to any of the characters this time around. Flint's big arc is that he is too trusting of his idol and doesn't listen to his friends? That is far from the humility and life lessons he learned in the first film and even more distressing is how little his love interest/partner Sam has to do. No matter how bright and colorful you make your movie (and CWACOM2 is impossibly bright and colorful at times), it can't change the fact that your characters are little more than our guides to the much more interesting Foodimals.


While the Foodimals and their creative designs will catch the imagination of the Pokemon generation, the film's generic plotting, stagnant character development and need to introduce a villain into the proceedings makes it abundantly clear that this is a sequel that was made simply to capitalize on the success of its predecessor. Those points not withstanding, it is still somewhat of a miracle that the film remains fun and exuberant through its entire runtime, thanks in most part to the gorgeous animation, bright colors and those lovable little Foodimals. Here's hoping that if they decide to make a third film that they remember to include a better story next time.

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