Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a lot like a marshmallow—and if you dislike my food similes, just wait till you get a load of the movie. It's like taking a two-hour trip down to Pun Town, where every joke's got a culinary root. It's almost scary how good the writers are at coming up with puns.
But, back to the marshmallow bit, and why it's important: to understand what makes Cloudy 2 (as it will henceforth be called) the movie it is, we need to rewind to Cloudy 1 and see what made it special. Released in 2009, Cloudy 1 was the second movie of the year to take a cherished, barely two-hundred word children's book and expand it into a feature-length movie (the first being Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are). Both were met with mixed expectations from fans—accusations of "They're gonna ruin my childhood!" and so forth—and both ended up actually being stellar movies.
Both benefitted from a sense of having a pre-determined concept, because their original stories are sort of the pinnacle of high-concept kid's books. But they also had room to explore. Wild Things expanded the role of the monsters as symbols of Max's personality; Cloudy made the food-weather not a random phenomena, but the product of a son (Flint, voiced by Bill Hader) desperately trying to either prove himself to his dad (James Caan), or his deceased mom, or to others, or to himself.
It's that last bit that made Cloudy 1 worth watching—it was just barely emotionally multivalent and real enough to appeal to the older-than-six crowd, while still being filled to the brim with enough bright dazzling visuals to keep little kids thoroughly entertained. Most kid's movies' "unappreciated heroes" are motivated by a sense of "I need to show my dad!" or "I need to show the world!"
What was nice about Flint in Cloudy 1 is that he just seemed like a smart, profoundly insecure guy. And because of that even slight realness, everything in the movie clicked better. The dorky awkward romance with Sam the meteorologist (Anna Farris), his relationship with his Dad, strained because of differing interests (science vs. fishing, respectively), his position as town laughingstock—none of it felt obligatory, a word that pretty much sums up every animated kid's film of 2013 so far (excepting Monsters University, of course).
Cloudy 2 is, unfortunately, included in that other category. The sequel resumes, following a brief recap of the events of Cloudy 1, literally seconds after the first ended movie ended, with helicopters descending on Swallow Falls as genius inventor (and role model to Flint) Chester V (Will Forte) announces his plans to clean up the island. The character of Chester V is pretty much as broad as a satire of Larry Page/Steve Jobs can get, and the movie's first act is a protracted excuse to tour the Google-esque LiveCorp headquarters. While entertaining, there's no heart to any of it; the only reason we should care about the characters is because we did last time.