“My name is Flint Lockwood. My whole life I always wanted to be a great inventor just like my hero. It was like Chester V. was speaking directly to me using the language of science.”
In 2009 Sony Pictures had finally learned to use the language of science when it comes to the world of animation. I’m talking the computer-animated feature film. Of course, they’ve been in the game for a while, but it was with the release of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs that this reviewer believes they delivered on the kinds of things that Pixar and Dreamworks have been delivering for quite some time. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs was a pretty big hit with both adults and kids, a combination absolutely essential to creating box office magic with a computer-generated animation feature. Based on the children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett, the film contained incredible charm. It pulled in a modest $135 million at the box office, but the film had pretty good legs on home video. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion there would be another one. But sequels are rarely as good as the original film, and it’s even more rare to find one that is actually better than what came before. Consider Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 one of those uncommon events. The original was, as I mentioned, charming. It was pretty good. The sequel is better than good. The franchise has a future that is anything but cloudy.
It’s just eight minutes after Flint and his friends have saved the world from the results of his invention. You remember the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator or FLDMDFR for short? The creation turned water into food like cheeseburgers and pancakes. It had gone out of control, and the resulting food weather nearly destroyed their island home. Like I said, it’s eight minutes later. Just as Flint (Hader), weather-girl Sam Sparks (Faris) and the crew commit to creating their own science lab called Sparkwood, a giant ship arrives with a hologram of Flint’s hero Chester V. (Forte). Chester V. now runs Live Corp where he’s a kind of souped-up Steve Jobs. He tempts Flint into his employ with flattery and charisma. But he’s really out to get his hands on the FLDMDFR. He relocates the island’s population with promises of a cleanup. All along he’s been sending in teams to get the invention. Unfortunately, they never come back. His last resort: Flint.
Flint is given a device to stop the machine that apparently is still functioning. Only this time it’s creating Foodimals. These are animal-like food creatures. The worse is a giant Cheeseburger spider with French-fry legs and sesame-seed eyes. Flint’s told it’s learning to swim, and soon these creatures will threaten the rest of the world…particularly Lady Liberty. Flint promises to go alone, but of course he recruits the gang which includes Sam Sparks, Brent (Samberg) his nemesis from the first film, now turned into a friend, Steve (Harris), a monkey that speaks through a rigged speak ‘n’ say, Officer Earl (Crews), and Flint’s dad Tim (Caan) because he has a boat.
“It’s a jungle out there.”
Once on the island the crew learns that all is not what they were led to believe. An expedition that was intended to end this odd evolution becomes a fight to protect a new and wonderful ecosystem as Chester V. tries to tear Flint away from his friends with thoughts of betrayal.
The first film pretty much followed the idea of the book and did a great job of introducing these core characters and telling a story that would bring them together. It also introduced us to the machine and what it could do. You might say it was like a comic book film origin story. The second film had some rather nice advantages. No time had to be spent introducing us to these characters. We know who they are, and thanks to very effective voice casting we’ve already fallen in love with them. The entire voice cast returns with only one notable exception. Mr. T. was not available to play Officer Earl, so Terry Crews took over the job. I have to say that he did so flawlessly. He nailed Mr. T’s mannerisms and voice enough for me to buy that it was indeed the same character. Many sequels would have been happy to take this advantage and coast into another few million bucks at the box office.
Sony found new blood in co-directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. I say new blood, but that’s not exactly true. Both worked on the first but were not directors. Cody and Chris managed to retain all of that charm and wit from the first film but tell a new and far more interesting story. Using the advantages I mentioned above they went about creating a completely different world for these characters to function within. The island is now a very different place, and the pair deliver some wonderful homage moments to Jurassic Park as the team explores what their home has become.
“It’s enough to make a grown man cry…but not this man.”
On the island we find all kinds of animals created from the food. They’re called foodimals and run from the pretty straightforward Berry, a cute and cuddly strawberry, to complicated creations like the aforementioned cheeseburger spiders and tacodiles… supreme. The filmmakers created a believable interactive environment with pretty much unbelievable elements. The true genius is how quickly you’ll buy into these creatures and this place. They first offer us a little terror at some of these creations and end up making you feel sympathy and even protectiveness toward them. This is a journey film for both characters and audience. It’s one that you will feel like you are truly a part of. More important, it’s an emotional journey that catches up on you without your ever realizing it at all. For the kids there’s a virtual playground of creatures and environments.
For the kids there are the obvious jokes and gags. These cheeseburger spiders spin webs of cheese, so you know it’s not going to be long before the “cut the cheese” gag shows up. Some of the puns are a little over the heads of the kids. Tim proclaims there is a leak in his boat as a living leek vegetable lands on the deck. The jokes are hit-or-miss, but most of them land with at least the crack of a smile. The kids will also enjoy the eye-popping environments. There’s a lot of eye candy here…sometimes quite literally. It’s a busy film that rivals a Lucas extravaganza with all of the moving parts. Of course, there are the cute new characters that were ready-made for stuffed animal material. I happen to have a stuffed Berry with me here. It’s great atmosphere for writing the review, but I just remembered that these guys poop strawberry jam. Hold on a minute…things could get really sticky around here.
The idea of creatures being made from the food was touched upon in the first movie, so this isn’t totally out in left field. We had living Gummi Bears and roasted turkeys walking around. So perhaps this was the natural extension of that film. They could have just gone with the machine active again and recreating the same weather issues as before. Maybe take it more global. That would have been the easy and likely safe path to take. I like the journey and discovery aspect of this film, however. There’s more substance here than you traditionally find, particularly with sequels. It’s clever and original. More importantly, it works.
For the adults you get plenty of nods to adult themes. Tim bonds with a group of pickles and teaches them to fish. I can’t help thinking about the days I spent on a boat with my own father. It doesn’t hurt that Jams Caan is providing the voice. He’s not the kind of actor you might think about for an animated voice character, but he manages to bring a tremendous amount of heart to this movie, something it already had in abundance.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p 3D image is arrived at with an MVC dual codec of 25/13 mbps. The 3D is pretty impressive. Of course, there are the poke-you-in-the eye-with-pointy-objects moments. Credit the team for not relying so much on just gimmick. The 3D is used more to create a fuller and more immersive world on the island. I’ve already talked about how colorful this film is. This high-definition image presentation won’t let you down. I’m not sure I’ve had this much color variety on my screen at one time before. The colors are bright and extremely crisp. Sharpness is razor with a great deal of detail and texture. The animators put a lot of thought into the subtle details here, and it’s great to see all of that honored with this superior transfer. Black levels are an inky black hole of perfection. There isn’t a ton of black used on the film, but when it’s there the image displays wonderful contrast that only brings out the crystal clarity even more. It’s a show-off piece.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 might not be quite so impressive, but there are some rather immersive things going on. It’s a busy landscape with some exotic sounds to go along with these exotic environments. It doesn’t matter that it’s so unreal. You get a sense that you’re surrounded by this world. The sound design never gets in the way. The score is rich and impressive but never overbearing. Dialog cuts through every time. You won’t get much in the way of sub levels, and that’s a slight disappointment during some key scenes. It’s not that there aren’t some nice lows. It just doesn’t drive that room-shaking element that would have been pretty cool at a couple of points in the movie.
There is a Commentary Track with Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. This track even has subtitles. They have some fun and share a few of the film’s secrets. Won’t thrill the kids, of course, but worth a listen if you want an insider look at the film while you’re watching it.
Mini-Movies (22:03) There are four films using the characters of the film.
Steve’s First Bath: Flint’s getting ready for a date with Sam, so he invents a robot to give Steve a bath so he won’t smell up the mood.
Super Manny: Manny shows us some footage from his camera of him trying to save a kitty.
Attack Of The 50 Foot Gummi Bear: Steve and Gummi Bear are fighting and use one of Flint’s inventions to grow to super-size. The fight continues in their huge form.
Earl Scouts: Pickle and Berry learn the importance of friendship at one of Earl’s camping adventures.
Deleted Scenes: (2:20) There are four with a play-all option. What is very rare here is that they are all nearly finished product and not storyboard reproductions. One explains how the Post-It note ended up on Tim’s head when he catches up with Flint at Sam’s apartment.
Production Design – Back In The Kitchen: (6:50) The two directors lead the talk about putting together the sequel. They talk about the new approach.
Cloudy Cafe – Who’s On The Menu: (6:53) This piece looks at the characters and the actors who play them.
Anatomy Of A Foodimal: (6:04) Cast and crew joke about the food creations and try to explain exactly what a foodimal is. It involves watching Cody Cameron carving up real pickles.
Awesome End Credits: (6:04) The end credits really are a hoot, and you should stick around and check them out. There is stop motion along with other kinds of animation. This feature takes you behind the scenes to see how it was all done.
Music Video: (3:25) Includes a making-of.
Building The Foodimals: (3:50) A look at early conceptual art and the evolution of the many food creatures in the film.
Delicious Production Design: (5:11) This one focuses on the changes in production design from the first film. Plenty of conceptual art and early designs.
he Mysterious Sasquash: (3:08) There’s a bit of an Easter egg hunt in the film. This Sasquash character shows up in fleeting glimpses throughout the film. This is a guide to what it is and where to find it.
The best thing about this film and what will make it worth having in your collection is how much is really going on through the movie. You’ll be able to watch it several times and notice new things each viewing. That keeps this kind of film fresh, and that’s a good thing if you have kids who decide they want this one on an endless loop. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? For my niece it was the classic sci-fi film Day Of The Triffids. Hey, at least there were moving plants there as well. The movie will satisfy adults and, of course kids will love it. After all, “There is no small science, only small scientists.”