‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2′ is like a dream you instantly forget

There's apparently a giant burger in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2." Credit: Sony Pictures
There’s a giant burger in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”
Credit: Sony Pictures

‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’
Directors: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
Voices of: Bill Hader, Will Forte
Rating: PG
2 (out of 5) Globes

Animated films are usually surreal spectacles — logic-defying sights often filled with animals, space aliens or even inanimate objects speaking English and carrying on like everyday people. With its anarchic narrative and overflowing, 3D-enhanced visuals, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” practically leaps from being surreal to straight-up phantasmagoric.

The sequel to the loose, freewheeling 2009 adaptation of the 1978 children book expands on the food-falling-from-the-sky motif, turning items of consumption into living, breathing (and mostly adorable) creatures. That’s what the manic, continually awestruck Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) — inventor of the food-replicating machine that covered his hometown in edible weather — and his friends discover when they go back to their deserted hamlet and find it inundated with so-called foodimals: mutant, hybrid foodstuffs such as flamangos, watermelophants, apple-piethons, wildebeets and so on.

Nearly all the voice cast from the first show up to reprise their roles. (Terry Crews steps in to voice the agile Officer Devereaux, since original voice Mr. T was, um, doing something else important?) Now that they’ve moved up to directing real people since helming last year’s “21 Jump Street,” original writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are replaced by animation vets Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, with screenwriting duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (“Horrible Bosses”) and TV writer Erica Rivinoja (“South Park”) handling script duties.

Whereas the first was something of a nutty, passable romp, the second virtually stirs itself up to a spastic, repetitive, immobile flurry. As much as the movie goes about dispensing brief flashes of oddball joy, it’s also aesthetically running in place. Instead of adapting “Pickles to Pittsburgh,” the actual, 1997 follow-up to “Meatballs,” this movie goes for a “Jurassic Park/Avatar” retread/mashup, full of incessantly punny gags (there’s not one, but two bits involving people declaring the presence of an actual leek in their mode of transportation) that makes it seem like the script got a polish from Carrot Top.

The central conflict of the film — where Lockwood finds himself being influenced/manipulated by a powerful, nefarious super-inventor (Will Forte) instead of his family and friends — not only resembles the conflict from the first movie, but nearly every animated feature that comes out these days. It’s ironic — and a bit hilarious — to find the notoriously cutthroat movie industry using animated kiddie films to teach children how to honor and respect those who’ll always have your back.

But that’s another instance of how much of a ludicrous, ultimately hollow dreamworld “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is. And, just like with most dreams, it’s a vivid, virtually nonsensical trip that you’ll most likely end up forgetting a lot of once you step back into the real world.


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