"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" is a humorous yet unfocused romp, so unwilling to settle on a single theme that hyperactivity medication should be handed out with the 3-D glasses.
The animated sequel starts as a very clever and slightly sinister deconstruction of Silicon Valley culture before morphing into a lightweight "Jurassic Park" parody, then morphing again into a rousing "Avatar"-style nature-versus-machines battle.
This fear of continuity seems to be a growing trend in animated family films, where talented filmmakers are given great amounts of freedom, then seemingly use every single concept from their brainstorming session for the movie.
|‘CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2’
"Cloudy 2" begins where the first film left off, with the island of Swallow Falls covered in giant foodstuffs, courtesy of inventor Flint Lockwood’s out-of-control cheeseburger replicator. The newly vindicated scientist (voiced again by Bill Hader) is given a choice: to join his friends in a start-up or head west and become a cog in Live Corp, led by a tech-sector icon in the semi-fictitious city of "San Franjose."
Live Corp’s leader is the cultlike figure Chester V, who outwardly champions innovation while quietly turning great young minds into scared, over-caffeinated drones.
But Chester V is just a way to get the crew back to Swallow Falls, which is now being overrun by food-animal hybrids, including fearsome Tacodile Supremes, Watermelophants and Shrimpanzees. The criticism of the high-tech hype and responsibility is abandoned, as Chester V becomes a run-of-the-mill villain with robot henchmen and world domination goals.
It’s worth noting that the jokes are effective no matter where "Cloudy 2" travels. Two new directors and writers duplicate the witty irreverence of the original, whether they’re on the West Coast or in the land of Apple Pie-thons.
The character design in these films is particularly strong, which rescues some of the more obvious sight gags. "There’s a leek in the boat!" one character screams — cut to a harmless-looking vegetable with eyes, arms and legs.