Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a manic motion picture, barely interested in telling a story, and packed wall-to-wall with puns and screaming. Actually, it was very funny. It reminded me of all the uncles across the world who babysit their nieces and nephews with whoopee cushions and pixie sticks. The pleasures were cheaply won, but they came from a place of innocent affection, grounded – in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, not so much your uncle – by a relatable story about mad scientist Flint Lockwood, played by Bill Hader, connecting with a stoic father who didn’t entirely understand  him.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is more of the same, but less of it. The ADD-addled humor is once again in full swing and there’s yet another subplot about Flint Lockwood desperately seeking approval from a father figure. But since his actual father, played by James Caan, actually approves of Flint after the events of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 1, this sequel shoehorns in a boyhood hero – previously unmentioned – for Flint to fawn over blindly.

The iconic figure is Chester V, played by Will Forte, and he’s Steve Jobs. He’s a technological pioneer who depends heavily on the knowhow of his underlings, he runs a design-conscious corporation with a benevolent name – Live Corp. – and he’s prone to profound-ish guru statements about innovation and making the world a better place, but he actually worries more about the bottom line than anything else. Not that this is a wholly accurate description of Steve Jobs, but it plays off all the clichés and negative criticisms about the Apple pioneer to create a character who is at once inspirational and villainous. And contrived.

Exclusive Interview: Directors Cody Cameron & Kris Pearn reveal the origins of the food monsters from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

Of course, the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs franchise is nothing if not contrived. The first film had to perform feats of acrobatic insanity in order to justify a natural disaster made entirely of food. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 has a simpler set-up: the food from the previous film has mutated into animals like “watermelaphants” and “mosquitoast,” and Flint Lockwood has to stop these monsters from escaping to the mainland. But a funny thing happened when the sequel streamlined the story. The focus shifted to the characters, whose life problems were all wrapped up in a tidy bow at the end of the last film, and who now have nothing to learn, and nowhere to grow.

So we’re stuck with the Chester V storyline, in which Flint Lockwood has suddenly always wanted to live up to his childhood idol who was so important that we never heard of him before. The rest of the cast – like Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), Chicken Brent (Andy Samberg) and Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews, taking over for Mr. T) – are reduced to frequent reminders of their sole character traits and mild platitudes about the power of friendship. The real heart of the film is left entirely to James Caan and a subplot about wanting to fish with his son, which isn’t much to base an adventure on.

Exclusive Interview: Terry Crews describes getting Mr. T’s blessing to replace him in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.

But Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a distraction first and foremost, and it certainly distracts thanks to non-stop jokes that mostly land and a cornucopia of food puns that, damn it, I think are funny. “There’s a leek in the boat” will always be amusing, no matter how many times Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs resorts to it. It just would have been nice if filmmakers Cody Cameron & Kris Pearn could have balanced the humor with a story centered around actual human behavior – on some level – or at least a message that makes a modicum of sense. By the end of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 the heroes learn that all food began as a beautiful living creature, and shouldn’t be eaten. Except, for some reason, fish.

So what are we supposed to eat, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, if all traditional food products have adorable personalities? Are we supposed to eat the cast of human characters? Because they’re not nearly as appealing.

William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.