Cody Cameron & Kris Pearn | 95 mins | Blu-ray | 2.40:1 | USA / English | U / PG
A sequel to the suprisingly-good-in-spite-of-its-name animated comedy, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (innovative title; though better than its original moniker, Revenge of the Leftovers) begins mere minutes after the first film ended; so closely, in fact, that someone decided it would be wise to begin with what is essentially a “Previously on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs…” montage. Well, it has been four years in cinema-time.
Following the worldwide effect of Flint’s invention in the first film, the clean-up operation is being spearheaded by Californian mega-company Live Corp, founded and run by our hapless hero’s life-long idol, Chester V (can you see where this is going already?) The island of Swallow Falls has to be abandoned for the clean-up, but things only get worse when it turns out Flint’s machine wasn’t destroyed and is still churning out food. When his teams fail, Chester V persuades Flint to return to the island to destroy the machine (again); and, naturally, Flint ropes in all his friends — read: “your favourite characters from the last film!” Hijinks ensue.
That’s the quick version, anyway; though the film isn’t exactly slower: it moves at a restless rate of knots, much as the first one did. That’s not something to be sniffed at, as it throws plot and humour at the viewer with wild abandon. Sometimes such a methodology is a recipe for “chuck everything at the screen and see what sticks” — with the latter usually being “not a huge percentage” — but here it creates a pretty fine hit rate. It helps that new directors Cameron & Pearn (the original pair of Phil Lord and Chris Miller off furthering their career with 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie) don’t just rehash the best-remembered jokes from the first film, instead forging into largely-new territory. The humour is mostly of the “silly” variety, never missing an opportunity for a pun or bit of daftness (including breaking the fourth wall, very briefly, but quite neatly). The result could be groan-inducing, but instead is quite delightful.
The villain this time is a thinly-veiled riff on Apple and its messianic founder, Steve Jobs. Here they become the aforementioned Life Corp, whose logo (and headquarters) is a giant lightbulb, and the equally-aforementioned Chester V, Flint’s childhood hero. As with almost all hero-since-childhood characters, you can guess where that’s going from the moment he appears at the start of the opening montage. Nonetheless, his storyline and relationship with Flint mostly works — it does take Flint a long time to reach the point of realising The Truth, but for viewers the reveal comes earlier and isn’t treated as an inappropriately big shock. Again, kids less familiar with movie tropes will be even more accepting of it. Plus there’s a Moral Message there for said kiddies (naturally), this time about trusting in your friends. It’s all familiar fare to an adult viewer, but doesn’t dominate to the point of boredom.
Elsewise, the film is visually and conceptually inventive, particularly in its array of Foodimals. There are far more racing around than the film can hope to feature in major roles, which creates the impression of a rounded world and boundless creativity to match the boundless energy. There’s also a nice array of nods and references to other movies — nothing too overt, we’re not in spoof territory, but you can spy bits of everything from Jurassic Park and its first sequel to Predator, and probably several other jungle-set adventure flicks to boot. Such things go over kids’ heads, I’m sure, but it’s another element for grown-ups to enjoy.
In the end, Cloudy 2 isn’t quite as good as the first film, but not in a “notably inferior” way. It remains relentlessly entertaining, with an admirable energy and drive, which is in part a desperation to not be boring, but not in a shallow way. It may lack the extra little something that the first one has, but if that was an 8-out-of-10 then this is a 7 — which, because it’s fun rather than disappointing, rounds up to:
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is available through Now TV and Sky Movies On Demand from tomorrow, and comes to Sky Movies Premiere a week Friday.