Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 (2013)

Untitled-1The FLDSMDFR. What a machine. And what a clever piece of comedy. Its name is an acronym for “Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator” — not that it matters — and it takes the piss out of electronic devices and associations and companies that have cool-sounding acronymed names. It was hilarious in the first movie, partly because it sounded silly, partly because Flint Lockwood pronounced it with an unabashed passion that in itself was silly, and partly because it was pronounced differently each time it was said. But oh no, its delight is lost in this sequel. It is reused and reused until it becomes a banality. And the same goes for the movie in general — it is not zany like the first one; it only thinks it is. Its jokes are made to inspire nostalgia. But I hardly laughed this time.

This is very upsetting, because I thoroughly enjoyed the first Cloudy. It was one of the better animated pictures not manufactured by Pixar or DreamWorks. And it also gave me one of my favourite animated characters: Policeman Earl, voiced by Mr. T who moulded the character into a flexible cop built like a tank. He was also funny because, well, he spoke like Mr. T. In this movie, Terry Crews takes over, and while I like the sardonic masculinity he brings to his roles (particularly in White Chicks), he is not Mr. T. And that’s a disappointment.

Everyone else is pretty much the same. Bill Hader returns as Flint. Anna Faris voices Sam. James Caan voices the dad, and so on. There are two newbies: Chester V, voiced by Will Forte, who exudes sinister undertones even though he cannot be seen; and Barb, the moderately overweight orang-utan sidekick, voiced by Kristen Schaal. Chester is a science freak, and he’s one of those family movie role models who turns out to be nefarious, crushing our hero’s childhood dreams and aspirations. He owns and runs a massive factory in the shape of a lightbulb just off the coast of San Franjose, and populates it with many scientists all striving to become much more valued scientists. But Chester has no time to entertain his minions. He has only one goal: Capture the FLDSMDFR and harness its powers to benefit his eco-friendly company. The FLDSMDFR meanwhile has somehow managed to breathe life into its productions. As you recall, the machine turns water into food. A very clever idea that I’d suggest Honda or Toyota start immediate work on. Here, the machine has given birth to an island that is as alive and as colourful as Liberace’s wardrobe, but with more food-shaped animals and less sparkle. Flint and his friends must brave this new world and shut down the FLDSMDFR.

The animation in this movie is top notch. Of course I didn’t see it in 3D, which means its colours are dazzlingly vibrant and its details are crisp clear. Flint introduces a new toy: The Celebrationer, which, when pressed, will erupt in a rainbow of coloured paint and emit party music. This explosion of colour, seen a couple of times in this movie, looks so real, and so, pardon me, colourful that I almost wanted to stretch my arm out and feel its texture. You know how you can almost feel one of Van Gogh’s paintings? Same thing.

And what of the island? My my. This island is a wonder of design. It really is. Every living thing, from the grass to the birds in the air, is made out of food. Chimps and shrimp, flamingoes and mangoes, watermelons and elephants, spiders and cheeseburgers (one of the more unlikely combinations), etc. Every corner of the frame is saturated with colourful “foodimals”, as they’re called, and they make for some spectacular shots that the previous movie can hold no candles to. It is a movie that is technically sound, and gorgeous.

But when it comes down to the story, and to the characters, something’s missing. There is no life left in the atmosphere. All the energy from the first movie seems hollow now, providing nothing but cheap laughs that are based on old jokes. Why even the title is boring, considering the amount of thought that has gone into its construction. Yes, Chester V’s wobbly boneless body is quite entertaining, and there is some respite in the cutesy strawberry, but when the characters in a movie don’t appear to have much life in them, no amount of googoo-gagas can save the day.

Best Moment | The many manoeuvres and positions of Mr. Chester V.

Worst Moment | Can’t think of one.

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