Back in 2009, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs came out of relative obscurity to become a modest hit for Columbia, and this sequel arrives on British shores having already performed relatively well in the US. It lacks the originality, and some of the spark, of the first one, but is still an endearing family adventure.
Much like the first film, I imagine young children will love this. I remember hearing the youngsters in the audience coo with excitement when Flint Lockwood (the original film’s protagonist, who returns here) made the skies rain with ice cream, and the same will surely be true of Cloudy 2’s ‘foodimals’ – a species of food animals created accidentally by Lockwood’s malfunctioning invention the ‘FLDSMDFR’, which was thought to have been stopped at the end of the first film. This time around, Flint and his pals must travel back to Swallow Falls to deal with these new and dangerous species.
Flint is pressed back into action when Chester V, an inventor whom he idolises, promises him a position at his Apple-esque company, in which employees gather around inspiration terminals and Chester’s sidekick, an ape named Barb (Kristen Schaal), constantly hands out varieties of coffee, which Flint readily accepts. The gentle lampooning of modern tech companies is mildly amusing, but things really get moving once we reach the island, which has now developed an unrecognisable ecosystem all of its own. Cue a variety of Jurassic Park references, and the cutest strawberry seen on screen since…well, ever.
What’s immediately apparent is that the story in this second instalment is weaker than before. Brief moments of emotional conflict come across as manufactured and the plot machinations feel distinctly cookie cutter. That’s not to say it doesn’t hold the interest, but it feels more generic than its predecessor.
Thankfully, the foodimals do a lot to banish this sensation. Anyone who’s seen the trailer will know that the film enjoys revelling in its pun-tastic supporting cast, and who can blame it? The scriptwriters evidently didn’t want any of their clever animal-food crossover ideas to go unnoticed, so there are a few clunky moments in the script when characters announce the names of each species, but these can be forgiven. This film is so proud of it’s “there’s a leek in my boat” gag that it uses it twice.
New directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn evidently wanted to keep the film as familiar as possible to fans of the first one, and to recreate the charm therein. To an extent this works, although bringing back the less successful supporting characters like Baby Brent, who adds nothing here, was unnecessary. It would’ve been nice to hear more from Anna Faris (just as sweet as in the original) and Terry Crews, whose character Earl had funnier lines in the first film, despite being less prominent. Bill Hader is still strong as Flint, and James Caan grunts away as Flint’s father, who again isn’t strictly essential to developments.
Cloudy 2 is vibrant and jolly, and at just over 90 minutes doesn’t hang around long enough to overstay its welcome. The film is missing the originality and jokes that Phil Lord and Chris Miller (as joint writers and directors) brought to the first one, but it has one killer trick up its sleeve in the shape of the foodimals. I grinned from ear to ear at the sight of a gang of marshmallows snuggling up to Flint, and felt a pang of sadness when Anna Faris’ character was forced to leave her pet strawberry behind, so it must’ve been doing something right.