Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has been my favourite animated movie since I first saw it about a year after its release. Sure, it doesn’t have the emotional heft of a Toy Story or the loveable senility of an Up, but no animated movie has ever made me laugh out loud more consistently than Cloudy. There’s just something about its goofy irreverent sense of humour that seems to elevate it above the typical easy-to-follow sight gags found in most animated kids movies.
And the big reason for that was the writer/director team of Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the minds behind such gems as Clone High, 21 Jump Street, and two pretty great episodes of How I Met Your Mother… you know, just in case you didn’t have the time to Wikipedia them yourselves (I really do spoil you guys). This isn’t the first time I’ve name checked these guys in a review and there’s a reason why – they’re two of the most underrated directors in comedy right now
Now it’s a fool’s errand to try and figure out who or what made a movie turn out the way it did. I certainly haven’t been privy to any of the inner workings of this production (obviously, I just sourced Wikipedia a paragraph ago).
But while Miller and Lord share a story credit on Cloudy 2 they’ve relinquished their writing and directing duties, and part of me feels their absence from the movie hurt it. As much as it pains me to say, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is not The Empire Strikes Back of weather-based food comedy.
Cloudy 2 starts some eight minutes after the original. Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) – the lovable, eccentric inventor from the first movie – decides, after much deliberation and thought, to build a science lab with his new girlfriend Sam Sparks (Anna Faris).
But before long – three minutes later to be precise – the island of Swallow Falls is bombarded with the employees of Live Corp, a company headed by Flint’s childhood hero Chester V (Will Forte). Chester V promises to clean up Swallow Falls while relocating the island’s many inhabitants to nearby San Fran Jose. He even offers Flint a job, one he happily accepts. Of course that job eventually comes with a secret mission, and it’s not long before Flint and his friends are called back to the island, discovering something truly shocking in the process…
It’s food animals. They find food animals.
The first glaring problem with Cloudy 2 is its villain, Chester V. The original Cloudy didn’t have a traditional villain – the antagonist was really the willful ignorance of the town itself and that was played pretty effectively for laughs.
And while a carbon copy of the original is certainly not what I’m suggesting here, Chester V was just not enough to fill that void. So much of the plot of Cloudy 2 relies on his character to create conflict, yet he was far too rote to ever carry a scene. It sounds harsh but the movie seemed to die whenever he was on screen.
Cloudy 2 also tends to over-rely on its cute food animals and the easy food puns that follow for far too many of its jokes, which unfortunately commandeers much of the creativity and variety that made the original so fun.
They’re cute. They can make you smile. And when the kids actually get them they seem to love them. Heck, there’s a screaming leek bit that I’m still kind of chuckling at. But on the whole they grow tiresome fast and no one in the production seemed to ask whether they may have an expiry date.
Still, I think the biggest problem with Cloudy 2 is that it just doesn’t have the same heart as its predecessor. Much of what was so great about the supporting cast in the first film – many of which just seem to be along for the ride in this one – is chopped up into repetitive one note jokes told over and over again. And the story between Flint and his father (voiced by James Caan) appears ripped right from the original, with diminishing returns.
Ultimately though, the comparison between the two Cloudy movies doesn’t particularly matter. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 doesn’t need to surpass its namesake, it just needs to entertain in its own right.
In the end, the visuals alone will probably be enough for the kids and that means it satisfies its target demographic.
But kids are stupid, and while Cloudy 2 may have its moments it lacks the cross-generational appeal that so many of the best animated movies possess. The adults in the audience may very well find themselves bored.