Review of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

There is a famous scene from the film Jurassic Park where, as a T-Rex approaches in the distance, the water in a character’s glass ripples ominously. In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, a giant walking taco draws near, and, as the menacing stomps grow louder, we see the pudgy belly fat of Brent ripple.

That is just a small foretaste of what this animated movie is all about: absurd hilarity in the hands of clever filmmakers.

To my surprise, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was not only better than the first film, but it was very funny. In fact, I’d be bold enough to say that the comedic quality came close to masterpieces of the animation genre like Toy Story 3, Madagascar 3, and Despicable Me. The story, although not as compelling or unique as those blockbusters, offered a creative kiddie mash-up of the plots from Jurassic Park, Avatar, and How to Train Your Dragon. In other words, the filmmakers didn’t just phone it in. You could tell they put plenty of thought into the script; and this shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn directed the film. Cameron and Pearn’s A-list filmography includes such blockbuster hits as the Shrek movies, Madagascar, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

The story picks up mere minutes from where the first movie left off, as Flint Lockwood, the wide-eyed, sincere but silly inventor, finishes celebrating with his girlfriend Sam after the destruction of the food machine that almost destroyed the world. Although he saved humanity from death-by-giant-meatball, Flint was not able to save the island where his hometown was located. Fortunately, LIVE Corporation kindly offers to clean up Flint’s island and relocate him, his father, and his friends to the fictional city of San Fran Jose, CA. The clean up operation goes awry when the crew discovers that the dreaded food machine has awakened and is spawning sentient food creatures. LIVE Corp urgently summons Flint to return to his home and stop the “foodimals” from swimming off the island and endangering earth’s population.

The film’s star-studded cast includes James Caan, Bill Hader, Neil Patrick Harris, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Terry Crew, and Benjamin Bratt. Its soundtrack is top-notch as well with Paul McCartney’s spectacular song “New”—the first single from his new album—having the most prominent place in the movie.

Although I wouldn’t take a young child to see it because of its scary foodimals (a cheeseburger spider covered with creepy eyes!) and its intensity in some of the climactic battle scenes, this PG-rated film is very family friendly. It doesn’t rely too much on bathroom humor to elicit laughs from the kid folk (though there are a couple toilet humor gags), and its only language, if you can call it that, was a rather silly use of the word “crap.” Besides being safe for most ages, it portrays fatherhood in a very positive, even Biblical way. The son has tremendous respect for his father and is very protective of his dad’s safety during their adventures. In addition, the film presents a clear message about never sacrificing your relationships with loved ones and friends for the sake of ambition and self-centered dreams. It’s a refreshing change from our culture’s obsessive mantra about pursuing your dreams at all costs, no matter who gets hurt or neglected along the way.

In regards to the quality of the filmmaking, I had low expectations because 1) it was a sequel, and sequels tend to be, well, bad; and 2) the film’s consignment to the post-summer dust bin of release dates made me wonder if the Sony execs didn’t have much faith in it. I was pretty sure it would be an eye-roller.

I was wrong.

The film’s entertainment value was fantastic; but it was not because the writers found clever ways to sneak in some wink-wink nudge-nudge adult humor. Instead, they created very lovable characters that any age group could enjoy. Terry Crew’s hyper-masculine cop character, whose chest hair tingled when he sensed danger, and Benjamin Bratt’s utterly deadpan Manny were especially funny, and they deserve a spin-off movie of their own.

In addition, its glowing Tron-like artistic style was much more interesting than many animated films, even some of the summer blockbusters. Besides the imaginative foodimal creatures, I especially enjoyed the scenes in San Fran Jose that portrayed a vivid version of San Francisco with its steep hilly streets. It’s a shame more of the story didn’t take place there. The 3-D, although not used in obvious ways, did add a nice immersive quality to the rich visual atmosphere of the film, and it is worth the extra ticket price. It’s a good sign when you walk out of a movie theater and say, “I wouldn’t mind seeing that again”—and that’s exactly what I said.

The film’s one weakness, however, was its slow pace in plot development. At times, the frenetic comedy moved at a much faster pace than the actual plot. Although it is a very funny movie, don’t expect an Oscar-worthy, tear-jerking dramatic triumph like Toy Story 3. That’s not the point of this film. It does not take itself seriously, and it makes fun of itself often. If you walk into the theater with a lighthearted mindset and surrender to the film’s manic silliness, you will have a blast.

The verdict:

This film has been certified to receive the official High Five of Awesomeness.

Well done Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, well done. I wish you much success at the box office.