Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Posted September 27, 2013 by Daniel Hodgson in
Once in a great while, a 3D film will come out that must be experienced in 3D. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is not that film. With rare exception, its cartoony heroes are placed directly in front of walls, denying the compositions any depth. It’s as if the film is going out of its way to look as 2D as possible. There’s nothing wrong with flat compositions, but it’s wrong to make an overall 2D-looking movie and then charge the audience extra for the glasses.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 has better animation than its predecessor, particularly in the movements of its main villain, Chester V (Will Forte). Chester motions like a mime throughout the film, moving his arms in perfect unison with one another. The animation is high-energy, the kind of hyperactive stuff that keeps kids with short attention spans engaged. But that it asks less of its target audience is a weakness, not a strength.
Chester is an inventor, and hero to Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), the original film’s main character. The sequel opens by quickly recapping the first film, how Flint created the Flint. Lockwood. Diatonic. Super. Mutating. Dynamic. Food. Replicator. (or FLDSMDFR for short), which turned water into food. The machine went haywire, and created a cataclysmic food storm, nearly wiping out his hometown island of Swallow Falls.
Picking up right where the original left off, the sequel has Flint and his friends trying to locate the FLDSMDFR (try saying that aloud), and saving Swallow Falls, which has been overrun with sentient animals made out of food, or “foodimals.”
There’s shrimpanzees, susheep, taco-diles, watermelaphants, and a jungle-full of other foodimals. The one thing there isn’t is a reason to care about a single one of the little buggers.
The problem with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is that it asks us to care about the background rather than the foreground. The fate of the foodimals is at stake, yet only one of them is given so much as a name. The Croods had its fair share of cute creatures, like land-whales and pear-shaped bats, but they were in the background and remained in the background. The Croods was about The Croods, as it should have been.
As with the original, the film is made up of puns. Bad puns. Almost entirely of bad puns. A cheeseburger-spider spins a web of cheese. Officer Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews, replacing Mr. T) approaches the web with a knife, and says, “Stand back, I’m gonna cut the cheese.” At one point, Flint proclaims that his plan to save the day will be a piece of cake. And what should be there but a walking, talking piece of cake. Brilliant.
No, not brilliant. It’s lazy and obvious.
The story is a jumble of subplots. At one point, the film has Flint’s father Tim (James Caan) teaching a tribe of pickles how to fish…for some reason. Early on, Chester brings Flint on as an intern at his company, Live Corp (try an anagram of that), inventing useless gadgets in a competition to become a full-fledged employee of the company. A rival appears out of nowhere, wins the competition, and is never seen again.
The film comes down to a disillusionment plot, in which Flint learns that his hero is a terrible man who deserves to be devoured by a food monster, and that he should listen to his friends and family instead. Thing is, kids need heroes and role models. It’s better for stories to create good examples rather than instill mistrust at such a young age.