Friday, October 4, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 - 2013

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" - 2013
Dir. by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn - 1 hr. 35 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

My admission: I didn't see the first "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" movie.  There are only so many kid's films that I can drag my girlfriend to as a buffer from being that one creepy guy going to see a kid's film by himself, and that wasn't one of them.  This is the burden of being an adult animation buff.  I just hoped that there wasn't some intricate plot-line that I wasn't going to grasp by starting with the sequel.  Thankfully, things made enough sense.  I'm not going to pretend that this is the greatest animated film I've ever seen, and my take on it is probably not relevant to how it's supposed to play with it's intended audience (like, kids, man), but I did enjoy some things about "Cloudy 2."

Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) starts the movie triumphant, surrounded by friends and family (and giant food).  He's quickly offered a job in San Franjose by his hero, Chester V (Will Forte), to work at one of those giant idea tanks (like a cross between Google and Apple) called Live Corp, but initially struggles with his attempts to become a full-fledged member of the Live Corp family.  Chester needs a disposable inventor for a particular mission, and settles on Flint.  So Flint (and his crew of friends and family) return to Swallow Falls, which has turned into a jungle populated with foodimals (like a Tacodile, for instance), to fix the FLDSMDFR (the computer that Flint invented, and is modifying food items into something new).

Probably the one thing that I enjoyed more than anything about "Cloudy 2" was the set design and background work.  If that sounds like faint praise, maybe it is, but whoever designed the environments that Flint et al exist in (particularly in Swallow Falls) really knocked it out of the park.  There are a number of visual stunners throughout.  Some have to do with the environment, like inside the Rock Candy Mountain, and some are just riots of color, like when Flint's party in a box explodes.  There are a range of color schemes, as well, including some of the jungle material, which borrows from black-light posters (not exactly literally, but there's some sinister day-glo action there, foliage colored in pinks and purples, used to great effect).  Also of note: the foodimals' character design is universally fantastic, to the point where my girlfriend kept squealing, "Kawaii!"  Lastly, full props for the credit sequence at the end, drawn in the style of a "Little Golden Book."  It's five minutes of undistilled awesome, and even if you don't watch the entirety of "Cloudy 2," it's worth watching this.  I couldn't help thinking that I'd kill to see an entire film animated in this style (that's only barely an exaggeration), but I guess traditional animation techniques and style is only good for kitschy end pieces these days.

So Clay, you might be asking, if your praise is limited to background and secondary elements, what's the problem here?  Allow me to preface.  For me, getting lost in the fantastic settings and adorable creatures roaming around in them was enough for me to have a good time.  But I love animation (and it's associated cousin of cartooning, in general), and seeing one aspect done exceptionally well can be enough to get me through an hour and a half.  For instance, I wasn't particularly taken with "Ponyo," but director Hayao Miyazaki's varying animated treatments of water was spellbinding, and visually fascinating enough to carry the film for me.  But if you need me to dig into the more prominent elements of "Cloudy 2," I consider that a fair request.

Quick answer: there's a lot of stuff here's that not particularly above average.  The plot had some visual flair, but it's a "stick by your bros" story, and not much else.  With only one exception (for some reason, the ape voiced by Kristen Schaal was awesome, but maybe it was just the side ponytail on an ape that made it work), the character design was depressingly stock (TM Lars Ulrich), and the character animation was largely not that interesting.  Maybe the directors realized that, as there's a habit of having a third character doing something silly in the background whenever two characters had to deliver some dialogue that didn't have any real visual elements.  Even the voice actors really didn't make much of a difference (and I like some of them, in a general sense) over just having a professional voice actor do the work (other than Schaal, who has a distinct voice that works beautifully for animation).  But it's still kind of fun, and a lot of the jokes land (if you're in the right mood to enjoy them - no frowns allowed).

The upshot is this: the prominent elements in "Cloudy 2" are super bland and indistinct, but exist in a stunningly beautiful environment.  For kids, maybe that works well.  For me, I can just get lost in the environments, wait for one of the jokes to click, and enjoy things that way.  For anyone else, this probably isn't going to hold up to the 8th or 212th viewing (because kids like to re-watch things to a psychotic level).  But if you can manage to see it only once or twice, it's a mixed bag that ends up being just north of okay.

3 / 5 - Theatre

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