When I sit down to write a review for Dear Cast and Crew, I often spend a good amount of time deciding whom to address. It's important, both creatively and conceptually, that I chose someone whose role can crystallize the various thoughts I have about whatever I'm reviewing. It can take a lot of effort, and I like to avoid defaulting to the director or writer because, really, that's too obvious. But for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, I figured, what the hell, why choose something original when taking the easiest path will do? I'm going to put as much effort into this as you put into the film.
Sorry to sound so cynical, but that's how Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 left me feeling. Opening with a five minute rehash of the first film wasn't the most promising start. Sure, these recaps sort of made sense in the pre-home theatre days, when an audience may have missed the original and had no way to catch up, but today it feels like the laziest way to set up a back story: without trying to fit it organically into the narrative (I get that it echoes the construction of the first film, but it was lazy there, too). And then I realized the real reason for this construction: you actually wanted to undo the ending of the first film. Remember when that machine blew up that caused all the food-related meteorological mayhem? Yeah, about that; it didn't actually blow up. You (and the other… let me check IMDb… SIX writers) took a trope that would embarrass the shlockiest serial adventure writer from the 1930s and hung your entire premise on it.
Okay, fine. At least the premise you built around it held some promise. Running on its own, the device creates food-based life forms, and the now-deserted island town has become a unique habitat. Chester V, a (way-too) Steve Jobs-like CEO swoops down to clear out the residents and cleaned up the town. At the same time, he hires hero Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) as an inventor. Of course, said CEO has his own plans, and after a few of his own teams go missing, he (of course) calls on Lockwood to help him locate the device. And, of course, Lockwood brings all his pals from the first movie with him.
Unfortunately, what should be a fun time watching our characters discover new and amusing creatures (the shrimpanzees being the high point) instead devolves into a smorgasbord of references to better films. Set design and even whole scenes are lifted judiciously from Jurassic Park, Avatar, and others. This might work for younger kids who don't have the frame of reference, but it just made me wish I was watching those more inventive films instead. Not helping matters is that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 follows the current animated trend to make everything funny, all the time. For that, I blame co-directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. But the fact the film only ever goes for the most obvious joke, I blame you and your co-writers.
It made me feel bad for the cast, too. They certainly give it their all. Hader and Anna Faris have good chemistry, and James Caan gives real warmth to what on paper (your paper) would be a stock character. Will Forte, as Chester V, and Kristin Schaal, as Barb the baboon, are also nice additions to the cast. And since they're really the only two new characters in the entire film, I'll end my discussion of the cast here.
Actually, I just realized this review is well over our minimum word count. I know you won't begrudge me for simply fulfilling my obligations here, so I'll take my cue from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, and save my creativity for something else.
Phoning it in,