Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Directed by Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn.
2013. Rated PG, 95 minutes.
Bill Hader
Anna Faris
James Caan
Will Forte
Andy Samberg
Benjamin Bratt
Neil Patrick Harris
Terry Crews
Kristen Schaal
Al Roker
Khamani Griffin

Precisely eight minutes after the events of the first movie, we begin our next adventure with Flint Lockwood (Hader) and the rest of his island clan. In case you don't remember what happened in the original, we start things off with a recap to get you caught up. The bottom line is there is a lot of cleaning up to do. There is literally food just lying around everywhere. In swoops famed scientist Chester V (Forte). Chester dispatches his subordinates to clean up the mess and sweet talks our hero into coming to work for him. Flint agrees then he and all his friends and family are evacuated while the clean-up is going on. We know what Flint doesn't. We know that Chester is really the bad guy and has an evil plan involving the machine our hero invented in that first film. We also find out that the food on island is alive and very dangerous.

Narratively, the movie shoots itself in the foot almost immediately by revealing that Chester has ulterior motives. He basically announces he's dishonest and is tricking our hero. The unintended consequence of this is that the good guys look like idiots instead of heroes. Even young viewers might be wondering why Flint doesn't see what's going on when Chester's admission makes his intentions more than obvious. It doesn't help that Flint is presented as clueless about anything except his own inventions.

Another issue is that the surrounding cast is given much less to do this time around. There are a few nice scenes between Flint and his father Tim (Caan). For the most part, though, dad is relegated to hanging with a group of sardine loving pickles. Sardine loving pickles is a phrase I never thought I'd type in a million years, but that is precisely what I meant. Earl Devereaux was played wonderfully in the first movie by, of all people, Mr. T. This time around he's played by Terry Crews, and we hardly see him. I remember him in a dress in one scene and making a chest hair joke later on, but that's about it. Anna Faris gets roughly the same workload this time around as Sam Sparks, the girlfriend/voice of reason, and might be the most likable character in the film. In place of these diminished series vets, we get Chester channeling Steve Jobs during one of those Apple conventions when he was announcing the next big thing. There is also his sidekick Barb (Schaal). I'll just say she's an ape with conscience and leave it at that.

All that stuff is bad, but hardly deal-breakers. Kids repeatedly sit through many worse offenders. What tears it for me is how aggressively bizarre the whole thing is. And not in a good way, either. It's an off putting kind of strange that gets worse as it goes along. We start by meeting much of the food. It's all edible versions of things in the real animal kingdom. This is a bit weird, but creative so I'm fine with that. The things done with them following this just rub me the wrong way. Most upsetting was the whole scenario involving strawberry poop. Hmmm, another phrase I never thought I'd use. You just have to see it to understand. Or not, if you're smart. I will give the powers that be some credit for one thing that was done with this aspect of the movie. Every so often, we'd get a pretty clear homage to Jurassic Park. They seem to be trying to invoke the same sense of wonder viewers felt the first time they'd laid eyes on Spielberg's dinosaurs. At this it fails, but they're still nice little nods.

I'm sure you've already figured this out, but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is not my cup of tea. The original was warm, funny, and had tons of charm. This one is lazily written and oddly executed. Instead of rebuilding the empathy we felt the first time around, the sequel assumes it remains with us and proceeds right to all the zany situations. These situations are where most of the energy is spent, but needed to be reined in. It becomes one of those instances when creativity runs amok. No one realized that everything that pops into your head isn't a good idea. While watching the first movie, it was hard to stop smiling and harder not to be drawn in by the characters and their plight. This time, I spent a lot of time cringing and shaking my head.

MY SCORE: 3/10

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