Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 Review

First off, can we all agree that the original title, Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers, is brilliant and they should have stuck with it? Ok, good - on with the review.

I never saw the original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in the cinema, because I thought it looked really really stupid. When I did finally see it, at two in the morning in a deserted zoo (don't ask), I discovered that it is, in fact, really really stupid - and that's exactly what makes it so great!
If you haven't seen it, just know that it is gloriously insane. Everything from the animation to the plot is manic and hyperactive and completely nuts. I'd call it "random", but that quite often means annoying or aimless or tedious, and it's none of those things. It's a focused, polished and sometimes even moving story that just happens to also be demented.
It's about wannabe inventor Flint Lockwood (which must always be said in the voice of Mr T) and his machine that makes food rain from the sky. The device goes crazy - well, crazier - and Flint, with help from various other assorted nutters, must stop it before their island town of Swallow Falls is completely destroyed by food-storms.

The story this time revolves around Flint's relationship with his childhood hero, my dad. Calling himself "Chester V" for some reason, my dad and his suspiciously Apple-like tech empire are tasked with cleaning up Swallow Falls after the disaster. It doesn't go well, and it quickly becomes apparent that Flint's machine is still active, spewing out monstrous cheeseburger-spiders and other dangerous living food. Chester recruits Flint, the only one who understands the machine, to go back to the now food-swamped island and shut it down for good.
Cue an endless string of food-related animal puns which, to their credit, continue to be funny even if some of them are a bit of a stretch (if a hippotatomas is an animal made of food, surely a shrimpanzee is an animal made of other animals).

The main difference between Cloudys 1 and 2 is that, while the first film had a fair-sized bunch of different characters, they were each involved in a different part of the plot and only came together right at the end - and then only some of them. This time every major character from the original follows Flint around right from the start.
While they are all fun and interesting, the truth is that these characters don't have much to do. Cameraman Manny and hyperkinetic cop Earl (sadly no longer voiced by Mr T) are both super-capable characters and that’s the joke, but meteorologist Sam Sparks is reduced purely to the role of love-interest, Flint’s father goes through the exact same arc as last time, and eternal hanger-on Chicken-Brent has literally no reason to be there. As minor characters become main characters, and new minor characters are introduced, you can definitely feel the kind of character-creep that suffocated both the Shrek and Ice Age series.
Happily, though, while having too many characters doesn’t help the story, it doesn’t hurt the story either. The main conflict here is that Flint is torn between his childhood idol and his friends, and in that respect having a large group of friends actually works pretty well. I just wish they were more involved in the actual events.

You'll notice that, though the food-island setting is suitably whacky, this seems far more of a standard movie plot than last time. Likewise, much of the humour comes from standard jokes and repetition, rather than the sheer creative randomness of the original. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just different - it still had me laughing like an idiot and twice I couldn't even breathe.
As with the first film, most of the best jokes are sight-gags, and these are uniformly excellent. Visually the film is just so inventive and crazy that you can’t help but love it - I could have happily watched the watermelephants and shallotosaurs for hours, just living on this island. The fact that we get Steve the monkey going constantly and hilariously nuts is just the sentient cherry on top.
The animation, too, is completely sublime, with Flint mashing at keyboards with his palms and Earl bouncing and rolling when he could just walk. Chester V, in particular, seems to have no bones - flowing across the screen like an eel and occasionally having far too many hands (again, don't ask). Chester, with apologies to my dad, is no Bruce Campbell, but his bizarre movements more than make up for that.

So, Cloudy 2 is still very funny, if not quite as dizzily inventive as its predecessor. It’s a visual treat, with a vibrant and creative world that somehow manages to instil wonder as well as non-stop humour. While these aspects are still built from top-notch insanity, the plot is a definite step down and the cracks of franchise-fatigue are beginning to show. It’s still highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed the first one, though, and to pretty much anyone else. This film will make you smile and laugh - a lot - and that’s more than enough reason to celebrate. Right, Steve?