(by Dustin Putman
2009's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" was, and is, a delight—a funny, heartfelt, boundlessly imaginative computer-animated feature expanding upon the children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett. Leading the way with inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), who had created a food-making satellite that quickly got out of control, and Sam Sparks, a weather intern who proved to be his perfect match, the film was as sweet and kaleidoscopic as Skittles with the added benefit of not resulting in a sugar crash. In mounting a sequel, Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn have been enlisted to take the reins formerly occupied by original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and the change is definitely noticeable. Stinking of tacked-on desperation, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" has its nice moments—a cute, food-centric double-entendre here, an enchanting visual there—but these individual bright spots cannot remedy a distaff narrative lacking in forward progression. PETA and GLAAD will love the overall messages of animal friendliness and overall acceptance between living creatures of all kinds, making it especially disappointing that the script by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein (2013's "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone") and first-time scribe Erica Rivinoja isn't more worthy of its predecessor. At the end, there is the sinking feeling that no one would be missing anything had the film never been made. Article continues below
With Flint's food-magnifying contraption thought destroyed, the out-of-control attack on Swallow Falls has been overcome. While the island is in the process of being cleaned up, Flint, Sam and the rest of the town's citizens are relocated to San Franjose, California. Sam gets a job as the new weathergirl, while Flint is sought out to come work for his Bill Nye-style idol, Chester V (Will Forte), at the planet-friendly Live Corp Company. When word comes that Flint's invention has been salvaged and begun breeding animal/food hybrids, he journeys back into the hot zone along with Sam and friends to shut it off, located at the top of Big Rock Candy Mountain. What Flint has yet to discover is that Chester V has a devious ulterior motive and is using him to get to his invention. When Sam discovers that the creatures are not dangerous, she protests cutting off the machine lest it kill the "food monsters." As she argues, endangering their lives would be inhumane. They didn't choose to be the way they are.
"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" features the most discouraging opener of the year before a single frame of footage has yet appeared. As the credits play, "Another Film By a Lot of People" pops up on the screen to resulting groans and what should be catapulting tomatoes. Things get a bit better after that as the story picks up immediately where the picture's precursor left off. The fictional San Franjose is very cool to just sit and take in its imagery, and the animation bringing the food items to life, from cheeseburgers to taco supremes to watermelon, look good enough to eat—if, you know, they weren't supposed to be alive. Where the film fails to match up to its previous installment is in the overall scope and emotions involved. There is an amusing moment where Sam has a falling-out with Flint and turns around the leave, but can only very, very slowly make her exit in the midst of a sticky swamp of maple syrup. The Awwwwwwwtomobile, which runs on a cute kitty in the gas tank, is either immensely adorable or rather creepy. For the most part, though, there is little to see here. Flint and Sam, so wonderful together in the first movie, are asked to go through the motions this time with no detectable growth of their relationship or added development into their pasts. The plot also never truly takes off, the climax whimpering to an end rather than closing on an inspired note.
If "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" was quirky and witty and worked alternately as a romance, a slapstick and a disaster movie all at once without specifically catering to any one demographic, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" plays like an afterthought, the sort of film that was concocted only after the first one made some money. As the kind-hearted Sam Sparks, Anna Faris (2013's "I Give It a Year") continues to do no wrong, her voice and comic abilities malleable enough to work wonders within the world of animation, while Kristen Schaal (2013's "Despicable Me 2") exhibits an irresistible spark and an underlying tenderness as Barb, Chester V's ponytailed hench-ape who doesn't realize her nefarious so-called friend is taking advantage of her. Lacking the same charm and overwhelming sincerity, however, the film resembles a work-for-hire project where no one—save for maybe the immensely talented animators—shared the same passion that directors Lord and Miller exuded in the earlier production. Non-objective little ones might be fine with "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2," but that will be because they like the swirling bright colors in front of them. For the rest of the audience, this is an obligatory also-ran missing the edible magic that made the one before it so delectable.