Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2: Revenge Of The Leftovers

Directed by: Cody Cameron
Kris Pearn

Produced by: Pam Marsden
Kirk Bodyfelt

Screenplay by: John Francis Daley
Jonathan Goldstein
Erica Rivinoja

Story by: Phil Lord
Chris Miller
Erica Rivinoja

Based on: Characters created by Judi Barrett
Ron Barrett

Starring: Bill Hader
Anna Faris
James Caan
Andy Samberg
Neil Patrick Harris
Benjamin Bratt
Terry Crews
Will Forte
Kristen Schaal

Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh

Editing by: Stan Webb

Studio: Sony Pictures Animation

Distributed by: Colombia Pictures

Release date(s): September 27, 2013 (United States)
October 18, 2013 (Northern Ireland/Ireland, limited release)
October 25, 2013 (United Kingdom, general release)

Running time: 95 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $78 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $123, 809, 559

It's a historic moment for a movie nerd like me anytime we get a DVD case. It gives us the opportunity not only to slow down and stop buying so many bloody films, but also gives us loads of time to occupy ourselves archiving it and sorting it out. Another thing that comes with the archiving is that I get to reflect upon the many great movies I have seen over the years, and as such I will say this, while it won't be happening until next year realistically, I plan on putting out a top one hundred greatest films list, most likely in my annual post-Oscars hiatus. If there's ever a time to look out on this blog, it's now, because I'm going to be doing a good bit more above and beyond simply reviewing new movies, but, as ever, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film served up on the plate is Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2: Revenge Of The Leftovers. The marketing department seems unsure as to what to call the film, so I've referred to it in title by the full name and subtitle, but from here on, I will refer to it as Cloudy 2. The first film, based on the book by Judi and Ron Barrett, was a surprise hit and a real gem, a movie of real invention and outright hilarity, described as Lynchian and Dali-esque by Mark Kermode in relation to just how surreal and bonkers it is. Picking up right where the first left off, after Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has saved the world, his idol and super-inventor Chester V (Will Forte), the CEO of Live Corp, is entrusted with cleaning the island of Swallow Falls, relocating Flint and his friends to San Franjose, California. Chester then invites Flint to work at Live Corp. After a botched explosion with one of his inventions during a promotion ceremony, Chester, whose cleanup teams have been attacked by monstrous cheeseburgers and various other creatures, tasks Flint with returning to the island and finding his FLDSMDFR invention, which appears to influencing the growth of a new jungle-like environment in the place of Swallow Falls.

Starting the good about Cloudy 2, the expressive ingenuity in the animation that was present in the original is brought over to the sequel. I've always liked the character designs (Flint's dad Tim, whose features consist of a monobrow, a square nose and a moustache, is a personal favourite), but the highlight is the world creating. The flora and fauna of the former Swallow Falls is this amazingly crafted hybrid of vegetation and vegetables, and is crafted in an imaginative and thoughtful way. Furthermore, the fact that they are able to get over what are more or less anthropomorphised strawberries and marshmallows as immensely cute characters is an achievement in and of itself. Many elements of the script too are noteworthy in a positive manner. The food puns, referring to buffaloafs, watermelephants and how Tim has a leek in his boat are resplendent, but never teeter over into tedium, and some of the dialogue is very funny. The way in which certain scenes are structured is intelligent too. For instance, during a scene when Tim talks to Flint, what would normally be your bog-standard basil exposition scene is kept lively by an open door which shows in our peripheral vision the poor monkey Steve being tormenting himself with the task of putting out a candle which won't do so. Also, strangely the movie manages to use the island of food 'monsters' in such a way that they become metaphorical. It turns into a movie about environmentalism, deforestation and the protection of animal rights, with these creatures merely being animals stuck in the middle of the squabbling of petty human beings. It's quite something on the part of the folks involved here that I'm able to get all this out of what is essentially food, and at it's best points, it reminds of some of the thematic content touched upon in Steven Spielberg's often maligned but quite underrated sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World: it doesn't who, what, why or how these animals were brought into the world, they're here now, so let's treat them with some respect and kindness. Another of the things good about Cloudy 2 is the voice cast. The returning Bill Hader does a fine job of eulogising the essence of the everyman protagonist, who is also not without his neuroses and eccentricities, not as far down that line as Woody Allen, but along those lines. Anna Faris is also full of conviction as the sassy and spunky Sam Sparks, and James Caan's tersely ironic and dry, yet sympathetic father Tim as I mentioned earlier is a real pleasure. Andy Samberg's Baby Brent is as crazy as ever, and Neil Patrick Harris once again manages to pull off the unenviable job of having to put both a lot expression and no expression into the monosyllabic monkey Steve. Terry Crews does a solid job taking over from Mr. T as Officer Earl, and while I missed Bruce Campbell's Mayor (my favourite character of the first), Will Forte, who in a live-action format is normally a pain, is engaging, believable and whose voice would make it hard to locate a place of origin, which is appropriate for the mysterious nature of Chester V. Finally, it must be hard to follow on from what Phil Lord and Chris Miller did with the first (and I hope they do with The Lego Movie), but Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn do a fine job of not only maintaining a consistent level of connectivity with first, but also establishing their own individual voices. Keeping the outright bonkers level of eccentricity that the original had but making this it's own beast, Cloudy 2 is a very good movie.

Despite the fact I found Cloudy 2 to be a refreshing and engaging animated comedy, it's not perfect by any stretch, and has a number of flaws that while not large enough to really drag it down, all add up to make it a less-than great film. For instance, I mentioned some aspects of the script as praiseworthy, but like A Belfast Story, the central drive of the film, which is essentially a coming-of-age story, is perfunctory and troublesome. The first Cloudy film followed Flint Lockwood in a sort-of bildungsroman-esque story in which he finally grew up, but the second one essentially says "remember how he grew up? He didn't really!" Thus, it does feel like it's at times repeating itself and treading on well-walked waters. Also, much as I enjoyed the dressing, as opposed to the dressing-up, you can put whatever you want onto Cloudy 2 but it is still a nuts and bolts movie at heart. Furthermore, while not an outright irritating the way some music is, the choices made for songs on the soundtrack and the original score are too suggestive of a happy, cheery attitude. Don't get me wrong, I'm not endorsing sour grapes by any means, but I just don't like it when any movie tells me to be happy. I like Mark Mothersbaugh and Devo back to the Mongoloid days, but the score is just too on the fence, and some of the songs, particularly the closing song, La Dee Dee by Cody Simpson, are just too kooky and breezy for their own good. Now, I think Jocko Homo in this would have been the tipping point towards insanity!

Cloudy 2 has its flaws in a script that repeats itself (particularly with regards to the coming-of-age story) and that it is a nuts-and-bolts story at it's heart. Also, the score and soundtrack are too suggestive of a jocular attitude, and I don't appreciate being force-fed happiness. That said, Cloudy 2 is a very enjoyable film. The animation is of a high standard, especially in the creation of the flora and fauna of the jungle world that has taken over Swallow Falls. There are moments of intelligence in the script, in the use food puns that actually work, the layered jokes that often have more than one thing happening at once and the fact that it's fundamentally a movie about environmentalism, deforestation and the protection of animal rights. The voice cast are of a consistently high standard, and the directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn do a good job of taking the reigns with the Cloudy story. An engaging and layered enviro-kids comedy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Sweet (got a nice package from Amazon there featuring said DVD-case, CM Punk: Best In The World, Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind, My Neighbour Totoro and Hatchet Job, the new book by Dr. Kermode)

P.S. The Paul McCartney song, New, is good

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