Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 2009 film Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs wasn’t exactly a direct adaptation of the classic children’s book from which it got its name, but it is one of the best animated movies in recent memory. With quick wit, fun characters, an awesome voice cast and unique animation, it was a fresh, inventive piece of filmmaking with a positive message and plenty of heart. Naturally, when a sequel was announced there was concern that it would wind up undercutting everything that was great about the original, but with some exception directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn have created a follow-up worthy of its predecessor.
Doing exactly what any good sequel should do, the film takes the world that has been established and builds on it creatively, using it as a springboard from which the new one can launch. Beginning mere moments after the end of the first movie, the story starts as Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), the inventor of the machine that create any kind of food from water (a.k.a the FLDSMDFR), is offered a job working for a conglomerate known as Live Corp. run by his childhood hero, the Steve Jobs-inspired Chester V (a character who wasn’t in the last one and is admittedly kind of sloppily shoe-horned in). Flint moves to San Franjose, California with his family and friends so that he can work for the company while the food-destroyed island of Swallow Falls gets fixed up, but is alarmed when Chester (Will Forte) tells him that the Live Corp teams working on the island have been mysteriously disappearing. Along with his girlfriend Sam (Anna Faris), his dad (James Caan), the talking monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), and friends Brent (Andy Samberg) and Officer Earl (Terry Crews), Flint travels back to Swallow Falls to help, and is shocked to discover not only that the FLDSMDFR is still active, but that its begun to produce various species of food animals.
Unlike many animated films these days that try to ground themselves in our reality, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is one of the few that fully embraces its cartoon moniker and is extremely silly and weird while never getting too dumb and alienating the older members of its audience. The film is littered with ridiculous, fun “foodimal” puns, with crazy creatures like the tacodile supremes, wildebeets and shrimpanzees, but really is on it’sA-game when utilizing them as sight gags (such as characters screaming about a “leek in the boat” or someone talking about a job being a piece of cake before the camera pans to an anthropomorphic dessert). The humor is funny and quick, the movie never going too long without a one-liner or physical gag, and while not every bit lands and it doesn’t quite reach the level of the first movie, it will still have you laughing out loud.
Not only are foodimals a great creative source for humor, they’re also an excellent gateway to some inspired and awesome looking animation. Each creature beautifully lives up to its name and is a perfect hybrid of the meal and beast that makes up its name, with the filmmakers adding brilliant touches like hippotatomuses having chives for teeth and pats of butter for tongues. The creatures even interact in fitting yet funny and unexpected ways, like mosquitoasts sucking sustenance from buttertoads (who also happen to sit on pancake lily pads). Sticking with the cartoony vibe, the movie isn’t exactly photorealistic, but it all works perfectly with the world’s aesthetic and is a wonderful example of what animation can do.
As a sequel, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 doesn’t fully stack up to the original, but it’s impressive just how close it actually gets.