Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
September 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

No need for seconds

'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2' continues the run of monotonous, uninspired sequels

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Columbia Pictures
Director: Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn
Screenplay: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein and Erica Rivinoja, based on characters created by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett
Starring: The voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal and Andy Samberg
Rated PG / 1 hour, 35 minutes
September 27, 2013
(out of four)

Here is my assumption: The writing strategy for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was to come up with as many food-related puns as possible and fashion the rest of the script around them. And if that's the case, then mission accomplished, I suppose. I don't imagine puns-per-minute records for movies are kept, but if they were, this one would be on the short list. The whole thing's a bit cheesy. (GET IT??!) (But seriously, that's the kind of material we're working with here.)

I guess it only makes sense for writers John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein and Erica Rivinoja to approach the film this way, because there's really no reason for there to be a sequel in the first place. Phil Lord and Chris Miller's 2009 original was delightful enough on its own, but it hardly demanded any expansion. The premise was what it was - any interest it holds is in its novelty. Repeating the premise is a worthless exercise.

But repeat it the filmmakers did, and the result is a movie that's perfectly tolerable and completely disposable. (I could turn that into another food pun, perhaps even an extended analogy involving the human digestive system, but I'll spare you. Maybe for part three.) In August and September there were a handful of wide releases, and of that selection, six were sequels. Zero of them were good. Most of them were terrible. Cloudy 2 is actually the best of the bunch. The frustrating thing isn't that the sequels exist, but that all six were just warmed-over rehashes of their predecessors. Not a single new angle in the bunch. All they need is a flimsy plot mechanism to get us right back to where we were the first time. In this case, the flimsy plot mechanism is that the residents of Swallow Falls are temporarily evacuated while a world-famous inventor/tycoon swoops in and "cleans up," only it turns out he only wants to get his hands on the food-generating device for his own devious moneymaking scheme. And it's up to Flint Lockwood and his pals to stop him.

So that's that. The one new idea is that the food has now transformed into sentient food creatures, but the film doesn't really do much with the concept beyond introducing each creature and its pun moniker and then just moving on. Things pick up almost immediately where the original Cloudy left off, with Flint (voiced by Bill Hader), his meteorologist girlfriend Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), his once-disapproving father (James Caan), his friend and once-celebrity mascot "Baby" Brent (Andy Samberg) and the local cop, Officer Devereaux (Terry Crews, replacing Mr. T) having just saved Swallow Falls from a destruction of Flint's own making. The aftermath is a time for rebuilding, which is why the townsfolk are sent away when Chester V (Will Forte) - CEO of Live Corp, Flint's childhood hero and a sort of Evil Steve Jobs (hold your jokes) - offers to clean the place up in a supposedly philanthropic mission.

But all that's really on his mind is the device - the FLDSMDFR. After first offering Flint a position at his company as something of a glorified invention lackey, Chester eventually solicits his adoring protégé's assistance in finding the device, under the guise of trying to protect Swallow Falls from certain doom. As backup, Chester has a legion of armed researchers on the island, just waiting to pounce if and when Flint locates his prized invention. Flint, Sam and the gang - with the help of a host of anthropomorphized food items - uncover the insidious plot and, y'know, fight back and stuff.

But while the story holds little interest, the film does get by on some of its visuals, which show the kind of imagination sorely lacking in other areas. Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn - along with production designer Justin Thompson and art director David Bleich - expand on the Swallow Falls universe, transforming it from a normal fishing town merely besieged by giant food into an elaborate, otherworldly fantasia that might as well be on another planet. It's like a combination of Avatar's Pandora and a rock-candy version of the Fortress of Solitude. It's the one thing about the movie that feels fresh - a full-bodied reimagining of the film's world and the rules that govern it. Unfortunately, that's all in the service of characters that have nothing to do, in a story that has no reason to exist.


Read more by Chris Bellamy


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