The Flint Lockwood Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator that you loved in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is back to create more chaos. But this time (after a handy "previously on Cloudy with a Chance Of Meatballs" intro where young inventor Flint -- the voice of Bill Hader -- explains the last film to anybody who didn't bother) the machine is hijacked by a Steve Jobs-y guru/CEO (Will Forte) with nefarious synthetic foodbar schemes up his sleeve. Bizarre food/animal hybrids are produced, friendships are tested, evil is vanquished, lessons are learned and EXCELLENT FOOD JOKES HAPPEN.
Structurally it's the same film as before. This is sequel as retelling, with the onslaught of giant grub replaced with an onslaught of food-based creatures. And the antigluttony message of the first film has given way to a soft-pedaled warning against the food industrial complex. But kids only get messages when thoughtful parents reinforce the material later anyway, and sometimes not even then. So it's not such a big deal that the movie is much more concerned with fast-paced adventure in a surrealist eat-scape, trotting out every conceivable mash-up of food and animal the creative team can think up (that would be directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn working with seven credited writers under the supervision of original directors/executive producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller). All the messages in the world won't stick if the end result isn't funny. And it's funny.
It's funny because it's packed with pleasurable visual details, a vintage Looney Tunes sense of comic timing and action-meeting-reaction, as well as a nerdist enthusiasm for witty dialogue. And for the peanut butter and jelly fish. And the shrimpanzees, the marauding cheesespider, the guy who's still in the chicken costume, the bouncy pickles modeled on South Park's Terence and Philip, the wedgie-proof underpants (and the fact that the movie insists on the word "underpants"), the electric water, the donut trees, the mosquitoast, the maple syrup swamps and the strawberries and marshmallows so visually inspired by the Japanese kawaii concept of adorable cuteness that they might as well start making Sanrio products in their likeness right now.
The wordplay zips back and forth, never stooping to smarmy innuendo. It's the kind of clever that parents will enjoy as their little ones focus on the brightly colored, energetic "foodimals," friends they'd never think of devouring. Which means, of course, that they would starve, just like everyone in this movie would if the scenario played itself out in any sort of logical, real-world manner. Maybe the next installment will solve the thorny dilemma of what's for dinner now that you love an anthropomorphic blueberry like it was your own flesh and blood. If it doesn't then you're on your own explaining it to the fussy eater in your life. Good luck!
STAR RATING: 3.5/5
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