It would be a lie to say that “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is original.
As the sequel to a movie based on a beloved children’s book, “Cloudy 2” doesn’t need to rewrite the rules. And yet, by embracing that realization right from the start, the film manages to be a great deal of fun.
Whereas the first “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is about a science experiment gone horribly wrong, the sequel is about the aftermath of this “disaster of epic portions.”
After being forced to evacuate Swallow Falls while a cleanup crew takes over, kooky young inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) begins working for Live Corp, a Google-like tech company that fosters scientific talent.
But the fun begins when Flint is asked to return to the island by his possibly nefarious boss, Chester V (Will Forte), whose green-tinted glasses are a wonderful homage to Frank Baum’s original “Wizard of Oz” and tip off the audience (the adults, anyway) that Chester might not be what he seems.
The island has been overrun by living food monsters, so Flint is tasked with stopping them from leaving Swallow Falls and taking over to the rest of the world.
He makes the perilous journey with the help of his buddies from the original, including adorable meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), bully-turned-friend Brent (Andy Samberg), Manny (Benjamin Bratt), his father Tim (James Caan) and his precious monkey pal Steve (Neil Patrick Harris).
The story arc becomes a tad predictable from the time Sam takes a liking to a sentient strawberry named Barry, but “Cloudy 2” truly comes alive when it riffs on tropes from classic disaster flicks, sci-fi films and monster movies.
The boat scene as the gang approaches Swallow Falls is reminiscent of “Jaws,” Manny gives a quick shaky-cam homage to “The Blair Witch Project” as soon as they hit try land, and the discovery of the dinosaur-like animal creatures is no less wondrous than “Jurassic Park.”
But the film is also able to get a great deal of comedic mileage out of the group’s identification of the island’s "foodimal" hybrids, from the watermelephants to the hippotatopotamuses and the shrimpanzees swinging from tree to tree.
Sure, there are a few bad “cutting the cheese” puns, but “Cloudy 2” is perhaps smarter than it might appear at first glance. Not only that, but the story has a ton of heart and a wonderful use of 3D, as the vibrant colors of the foodimals and the lush island jungle truly get the chance to shine.
While the kids are sure to love it, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” also wins the distinction of being the animated film that parents are mostly likely to enjoy this year. Rated PG.