Mmmmm...Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs! Now, who's ready for another helping?!
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 picks up exactly were the first flick left off all the way back in 2009. The FLDSMDFR (y'know, the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator) is
kaput. Kinda-sorta-super-scientist Flint Lockwood has gotten a smooch on the lips from the girl of his dreams, meteorologist Sam Sparks. Heck, and no matter how much of an outcast Flint used to feel like, everyone in
|[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]|ChewandswallowSwallow Falls has rallied around their new hero. Woo-hoo! The only hiccup is that this sleepy little island is buried under eight hojillion tons of giant watermelons and baked potatoes and ice cream sandwiches and on and on and on. Never fear! Flint's boyhood idol, mega-billionaire and super-cool industrialist type Chester V, has swooped in to save the day. He and his Thinquinauts are going to have Swallow Falls spic 'n span before you know it. In the meantime, Chester will even put them up in ritzy apartments in sunny San Franjose, California.
Wait, did I say everyone could return home before they know it? Oh, they know it, alright. They've even started setting up shiny new lives for themselves over in San Franjose. Sam's on TV, filling folks in about the weather. Alpha male gymnastic cop Earl Devereaux has traded in his manly facial hair for a pastry shop. Flint's eyes are popping out at the corporate headquarters of Live Corp., hoping one of his inventions will land him an orange vest and a spot as one of Chester's elite squad of Thinquinauts. Sssshhh! Don't tell anyone, but cleanup on Swallow Falls isn't going all that great. Turns out that the FLDSMDFR is still chugging away somewhere on the island. It doesn't just send food raining down from the heavens anymore; it creates life! More like both, really. Fla-mangoes! Shrimp-anzees! Cheeseburger? More like a cheese-spider, with oodles of sesame seed eyes and skittering french fry legs!
It's a strange and dangerous place these days, and one squad of Thinquinauts after another goes missing. No one knows the FLDSMDFR like Flint Lockwood, though, and Chester sends his bumbling new employee on a covert, one-man mission to shut it down for good. Okay, maybe not "covert" and "one-man" once Flint's joined by his patient pop an' closest friends who are always looking out for him, but close enough. It's an adventure, alright, especially since the not-as-nice-as-you'd-think
Chester V is secretly hatching all sorts of sinister schemes, dead certain there's an eleven-figure payday waiting for him on Swallow Falls under all that
|[click on the thumbnail to enlarge]|anthropozoomorphic food. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
I love, love, love the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film. The only thing is that it felt like such a complete, totally satisfying, three-course meal that I wasn't exactly hankering for a sequel. The good news is that even with a different pair of chefs at the helm, part two is anything but lazily microwaved leftovers. Yikes, and I really need to cut out all that culinary wordplay before it gets out of hand. On the upside, if you're into that sort of thing, you'll love Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which piles on about 480,345,693,751 different food puns. Not that I counted or anything. Really, this sequel only suffers by comparison. The first movie was so fiercely imaginative, infectiously fun, and packed a healthy and well-earned emotional streak. Part two doesn't climb to quite those same heights, but part of that's because Cloudy Mark Deux has a different set of goals.
Where the first flick riffed on disaster movie tropes, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a road trip-sci-fi-fantasy-adventure. Think Up meets Jurassic Park meets...well, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Swallow Falls used to be Anytown, USA; now, it's an achingly gorgeous, practically otherworldly tropical paradise: one overflowing with pancake-and-syrup marshes, milky waterfalls, and an oversized salad bowl of a jungle. Once Flint and company are on the island, every
sequence dives headfirst into a completely different world. Cloudy...2 sets out to continually dazzle viewers with things no one's ever seen or dreamt up before, and that's a key part of the reason why this sequel is so fast, frenetic, and rarely eases up on the throttle.
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Most of the folks from Swallow Falls that you had such a blast palling around with the first time through are back. Since you already know 'em and love 'em, the movie feels okay shifting the sliders a little further away from the 'Characterization' side of the dial and closer towards 'Playful Mayhem' instead. There's just about always something strange and wonderful on-screen. I can't get enough of the rubbery, hyperexpressive animation, especially Chester V and his spaghetti noodle limbs. The sequel skewers Silicon Valley and the Cult of Apple, an itch I didn't even know I wanted to have scratched. It's so densely packed with puns and foodimals that I'll probably still be discovering jokes the third or fourth time through. Oooooh, and even though I'm a 35 year old dude with no kids, Barry and the pickle people are so gosh-darn adorable that I'd eagerly cover my bed with huggable, stuffed dolls.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2! It's pretty, it's punny, and it's an overcaffeinated adventure. What's not to like? Well, there's nothing I'd scowl at as any kind of fatal flaw, but this sequel is driven a lot more by plot than the first one was, so there's not that same sort of emotional investment in its characters that drew me so deeply into Cloudy 1.0. The importance of friendship an' loyalty an' family are a big part of the movie's message (and vegetarianism too, kind of), but to get to that point, Flint has to turn his back on Pops, Sam, and company first. I get the necessity of that from a storytelling standpoint, but the result is that the supporting cast doesn't feel anywhere near as essential as they did the first time around. Still, the original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was fresh, inventive, infectiously witty lightning-in-a-bottle: a genuinely great movie that easily ranks among my favorite animated releases over the past ten years. This sequel doesn't try to...um, re-bottle that lightning, instead building off the first movie's strengths to try to do something a little different. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 isn't as special or memorable as the first installment was, but I still had a lot of fun with it, and this is a movie I know I'm going to grab off the shelf and watch again very soon. That's a good thing. Recommended.
Wait! It's too obvious if I say something corny like "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 looks good enough to eat!", right? I ask 'cause it really does. On the my-kind-of-geeky side of things, the first movie was rendered at 1.5K, while the sequel was rendered in 4K. Even though this Blu-ray disc doesn't have the resolution to push all of those pixels onto your TV, that oversampling helps ensure that the high-def presentation is extra-gorgeous. The image is remarkably sharp and detailed, showing off all that sumptuous lighting and an exceptional sense of texture. The way-literally candy-colored palette can be eye-popping, especially once Flint braves that big rock candy mountain. I mean, just look at it:
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Try to imagine what a blurry smudge Chester and Flint would've been reduced to on any other format. The achingly gorgeous visuals are a huge part of the experience, and streaming, cable/satellite, or DVD wouldn't be able to fully do it justice. Until we can plop down on the couch and watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 in 4K in our living rooms, Blu-ray is the way to go here.
Brace yourself for technical stuff! BD-50 disc. AVC encode. 2.39:1 aspect ratio. There's a separate 3D release, but that's not the version I'm reviewing here, not that it'd matter since I don't have a 3DTV.
Ooooooooh, this 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is so much fun! Thinquinauts zipping around overhead, careening from channel to channel! The low-frequency belch of Flint's Grocery Deliverator! The roaring cheese-spider and stomping taco-dile rattling everything in the room! Casting a fishing line on the largest scale of anything, ever, and seizing hold of every speaker you could possibly own in the process! Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 sounds phenomenal. Every element in the mix is startlingly clean, clear, and distinct. The low-end is punchy, and it's just about always making playful use of the surround channels. Nothin' but the very nicest things to say!
Along for the ride are two other 5.1 tracks: a 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio dub in French along with a lossy Spanish track (DD; 640kbps). Subtitles are dished out in English (SDH), French, and Spanish.
Four words: scratch-'n-sniff slipcover. ...or is that two words? I don't even know anymore. Anyway, it's embossed, it smells like strawberries, and it's really neat. As for the stuff that's actually on the disc...?
- Audio Commentary: Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn -- both alums of the story team on the original Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs! -- sit down for the sequel's commentary. It's a really animated discussion, he
types with a hyuck-hyuck, about as fast and quippy as the movie itself. Among the highlights are all the gags lurking in the background that they point out, how to invent a pickle language, a slew '80s movie references that they can't fully explain 'cause of the law, pun fatigue, and the threat of all this wordplay not playing too well overseas. Definitely worth a listen.
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- Mini-Movies (22 min.; HD): Four of 'em! This is all-new animation, with a few theatrical-quality CG wraparounds but mostly keeping things flatter and simpler. First up is "Steve's First Bath", as the stinky monkey gets in the way of a perfect date and squares off against Bath-Bot. "Super-Manny" follows everyone's favorite multi-licensed cameraman on a particularly grueling drive to work. Not as grueling as it is for that kitty cat, though...! "Attack of the 50 Ft. Gummi Bear" is the only of these shorts without any fancy computer animation, and...yeah, the title tells you most of what you need to know. I'll say that the gummi bear isn't the only 50 foot tall thingie stomping around the city and leave it at that. Finally, "Earl Scouts" has Barry and a pickle person locked in mortal combat in the woods. You gotta explain things a little more clearly here, Officer Devereaux!
- Deleted Scenes (2 min.; HD): With four scenes and a total runtime just a little north of two minutes, don't expect any colossal, sweeping changes here. Barb picks up Flint in a way-futuristic flying car, you get a peek at Flint packing and leaving an appropriate outgoing message as he prepares for his covert mission, there's a really awesome exchange of snark in the tunnel to Flint's lab, and Chester scores an alternate introduction to Flint's pals. This is full CG (even if it's not 100% polished) rather than the animatics and storyboards you sometimes get for deleted scenes in these sorts of movies.
- Production Design: Back in the Kitchen (7 min.; HD): The first of two production design featurettes delves into shaping the look of this sequel, such as reimagining Swallow Falls as a far larger, zanier world than we saw last time, dreaming up the many different food-based environments, and the allure of all those light bulbs and hexagons.
- Cloudy Café: Who's on the Menu? (7 min.; HD): Here's your voice actor featurette! "Cloudy Café" catches up with all the folks on the other side of the mic for interviews and some footage of them at work. Neil Patrick Harris is the standout here, not surprisingly.
- Anatomy of a Foodimal (6 min.; HD): I think this one's my single favorite extra on the disc. The filmmakers behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 show off how they dreamed up this army of different foodimals, from pickle-carving to strawberry warrior posing outdoors to puns and puns and more puns. They also chat about the challenges of animating a character with seeds all over his face, and you even get a closer look at some foodimals that aren't front and center, like the meatballrus (half meat, half walrus!) and the apple python.
- Awesome End Credits (6 min.; HD): They really are awesome! The end credits for Cloudy...2 feature all sorts of different styles of animation -- CG,
stop motion, puppeteering, way-2D digital stuff -- and this featurette delves into it all!
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- Music Video (3 min.; HD): Cody Simpson whips out his ukulele for this music video for "La Da Dee".
- Making of the "La Da Dee" Music Video (1 min.; HD): ...and, yeah, you get a very short making-of too, focusing on bringing all the food to life.
- Building the Foodimals (4 min.; HD): This one's all about the 120 or so different types of culinary critters that have taken over Swallow Falls: their unique movements, designs, and personalities. You also get a peek at different stages of them being brought to life in the digital domain. Too cute!
- Delicious Production Design (5 min.; HD): Gawk at some gorgeous conceptual art with running commentary. Lighting, foodimal designs and expressions, the impact of lighting on tone, an overall painterly approach...if you're not springing for The Art of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Revenge of the Leftovers, this is the next best thing.
- The Mysterious Sasquash (3 min.; HD): Last up to the plate is this documentary-style featurette pointing out where you can find one particular elusive foodimal in the background of Cloudy Deux.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 gets the combo treatment, so along with this Blu-ray disc, you get a DVD and UltraViolet digital copy code out of the deal too. You can watch this sequel anywhere and pretty much on anything. Oh, yeah, and there are a bunch of coupons and stuff inside too.
The Final Word
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs isn't quite as tasty when it goes back for seconds, but this sequel is still a heckuva lot of fun, and you sure do get your money's worth out of this special edition. Recommended.