'Cloudy' bloats its visual feast with food puns
05:00 AM, Sep 26, 2013
How you view Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2depends largely on the role movies play in your life.
If you rely on films to keep your kids entertained and distracted for an hour and a half, Meatballs (**½ out of four; rated PG; opens Friday nationwide) is a masterwork, a visual stunner that manages to break from animation’s current 3-D rut.
If you prefer your kids’ movies to actually say something, the forecast is a little more gray.
The inevitable follow-up to the 2009 hit faced a near-impossible task in trying to match the Technicolor palette and offbeat storytelling of the original, based on the 1978 children’s book by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.
Alas, the sequel, directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, continues to establish itself as an aesthetic wonder. But those pretty pictures are hardly worth a thousand words, and Meatballs 2 nearly grinds to a narrative halt.
Seemingly picking up minutes after where the first film left off, our young, genius inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has just been hailed as the Edison of his animated times after creating the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR for short), a machine that turns water into bananas the size of Buicks.
In a hurried exposition that resembles the set-up of a SpongeBob SquarePantsepisode, we learn that the invention not only continues to churn out preposterous produce, but that the snacks have become sinister “foodimals” that threaten to destroy Flint’s tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic. Kind of a Jurassic Park of living, angry zucchini.
The flimsy plot is enough to plunge Flint and his dad (James Caan), and pals Sam (Anna Faris), Earl (Terry Crews) and others back to Swallow Falls, where they will face “tacodiles” and “shrimpanzees.” Get it?
If you don’t, don’t worry. In place of a story arc, Cloudy offers puns aplenty as our heroes worry they’re “french” toast and that their boat has sprung a “leek.” At least the kids are dodging real food instead of hyper-caffeinated cola though they all act as if they’ve downed a gallon apiece.
That, though, may be the film’s saving grace as a distraction. There’s not a surprise or moment of tension to be found here, but the film is all energy and color that makes the discomfort of 3-D glasses seem worth it.
More importantly, Cloudy continues to take a decided step away from photo-realistic drawings. Big-budget animation has become obsessed with rendering cartoons as convincing as a picture, with much success. But Cloudy embraces a world found only in an animator’s mind one worth exploring if you check your brain at the FLDSMDFR.