The original Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was a sweet treat of an adaptation of the 1982 book by Judi and Ron Barrett. From the visual smorgasbord — especially Lockwood’s secret laboratory where such electronic gimmicks of the 1980s Simon game and an Atari joystick create the Tron look — to the food jokes, the movie worked for all ages.
The sequel, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, comes across like eating leftovers. There’s still some pleasure out of the reheated dish, but it lacks the appeal of the original.
Meatballs picks up on the island where all of the culinary madness started. Food items are evolving into living creatures such as Shrimpanzes and Flamangos. The fear is the creatures will learn to swim and become a threat to the mainland.
Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), the wide-eyed inventor behind the original food fight, is recruited by mega-billionaire inventor Chester V (Will Forte) — head of The Live Corp Company — to find the source of the food transformations. With the aid of his friends and family, Lockwood sets off on an Jurassic Park-style adventure.
The script — by five different writers — bounces between trying to recreate Jurassic Park scenes using fruits, vegetables and meats to food-inspired puns. If says, “It’s a piece of cake,” then a piece of cake is in the scene. Variety among gourmet gags is so limited that one pun about a “leek in the boat” gets repeated.
A writer who lives by the pun, dies by the pun. The jokes become as stale as week-old bread, plus there’s no way a young audience can pick up on 99 percent of the jokes. The only pun that seems to resonate through all demographics is a line about having to “cut the cheese.”
Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn give the film the frantic pace and bright colors needed to keep the attention of kids. It’s the kind of so-so cinema that will entertain those who aren’t too demanding.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Rated PG, 95 minutes.