Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013)

It had some repetitive, unsubtle dialog, but on the whole, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 was better than I was expecting.

Premise: The protagoscientist (Flint) and everyone else on the boring fishing island that got covered in too-big food items falling from the sky in movie 1 gets evacuated to California while the mess gets cleaned up by Live Corp, a high-tech company headed by Flint’s childhood hero, inventor Chester V. After working thanklessly on inventions for the company in a tiny cubicle for six months, Flint then gets suckered into returning to the island to deactivate his device, which has gone haywire and has apparently created food monsters. His father and friends return with him to the island, where they discover that it has turned into a jungle inhabited by foodimals.

If you can stomach the dialog, some of which is funny and some of which (like I said) is repetitive, then it’s actually a lot of fun. You get a technicolor eyeful of lovable, inventive creatures and an earful of food- and animal-related puns. The plot is rather tidy and satisfying, and the demise of the antagonist is particularly fitting. The end credits are really weird. The informative special features shed light on some things you might overlook while watching the movie.

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SPOILERS BELOW, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

My Beat Sheet for
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Opening image
The beginning of the movie shows how Flint idolizes Chester V and becomes an inventor because he wants to be like that noodly-limbed, lightbulb-headed guy.

Set-up / Theme stated
Just after Flint sketches out a plan to start a lab with his friends (his meteorologist girlfriend, her cameraman, Steve the monkey, an ex-bully, a beefy black cop, and his dad), Chester V shows up in Flint’s hometown. He says residents must be temporarily relocated to San Franjose while Live Corp cleans up the area. Flint accepts a job with Live Corp, setting aside plans to set up a lab with his friends. He believes it is his best chance to change the world for the better.

Escorted by Barb, Chester V’s purple, intelligent and highly underappreciated chimpanzee aide, Flint starts the job at Live Corp, aiming to be named a hexagonal-orange-vest-wearing thinquanaut, one of the envied few in Chester V’s inner circle. Um, hexagon.

Six months later, Flint believes his inventions have secured him a place among the thinquanauts, and brings his lab assistant, the monkey Steve, and his party-in-a-box invention, to a company ceremony, intending to celebrate his promotion on the spot. He is humiliated when someone else is named and his box explodes, publicly exposing his foolish hopes. Flint’s father and friends offer support, but it doesn’t seem to help.

Break into Two
Chester V learns that Flint’s invention, which he has long coveted, has gone crazy on the island, and that there are now monstrous creatures attacking his clean-up teams. He decides to flatter the naïve Flint into going to the island to heroically shut down the machine using a special key-like device. Chester V tells flint that if no one shuts off the machine, cheeseburger monsters will learn to swim, multiply, and attack across the globe, destroying a variety of world monuments, Lady Liberty in particular. He asks Flint to go alone and keep the mission a secret. Flint agrees but immediately invites his father and friends along.

B Story
The B Story is Flint’s relationship with everyone who isn’t Chester V (his father and friends). Flint starts out in a happy group with them at the beginning, and includes them when setting off on his quest, but gradually alienates them all as he pursues inventorhood.

Promise of the Premise
The team reaches the island. They pass through interesting shoals and reefs, leaving Flint’s dad with the boat to explore the jungle that used to be their town. Flint is trying to get to his lab, but it’s hard not to be distracted by the amazing creatures along the way. The girlfriend comes to like and respect the creatures for what they are, especially a strawberry, who she names Barry and who swallows the mission-critical key. Chasing it, the team gets attacked by a spider-like cheeseburger monster. Meanwhile, Flint’s dad teaches some clumsy pickles how to fish.

The team gets rescued from the monster by Chester V and Barb and some guardians in high-tech suits. The key is recovered from the strawberry. Flint and Chester V bond while collecting parts that Flint then uses to build a device that will help him find the machine.

Bad Guys Close In
Trying to separate Flint from his friends, Chester V, using a Chinese proverb (in Chinese), persuades Flint not to trust the ex-bully, with the result that the ex-bully and the cameraman get their feelings hurt. In my favorite scene, the team is following the tracking beacon through a syrup swamp. When the girlfriend questions whether they should pursue the mission, Flint ignores her, and she storms off… very slowly, on account of the syrup. (According to the special features, the film creators actually bought and waded in a bunch of syrup to see what it would be like, but then had a visit from the haz-mat team after discarding it in leaky garbage bags in a dumpster.) Since the others agree with her, they leave, too. Very slowly.

All is Lost
Chester and Flint reach big rock candy mountain, the crystal-covered home of the machine. As he is about to use the key, Flint sees some marshmallow thingies and realizes that his girlfriend was right, the machine isn’t bad, the foodimals are amazing and deserve the chance to live and multiply. He decides not to deactivate the machine. But Chester V does it anyway, then tries to kill him.

Dark Night of the Soul
Flint, having been betrayed by his idol, seems to have drowned. His friends are captured by Live Corp goons. However, Flint’s friends take the opportunity to nourish seeds of doubt in Barb’s mind by sticking together and insisting that Chester V is a jerk to her. Barb starts to think they might be right.

Break into Three
Flint (having been rescued by the marshmallow thingies), his dad, his friends, and the foodimals together build a giant fishing rod that throws Flint at the new lightbulb-shaped lab Chester V is building on the island.

There’s a big fight in the lightbulb lab, where foodimals are about to be turned into food bars by Chester V and his machines. The embarrassing party-in-a-box invention saves the day when it reveals which Chester V is not a hologram. Barb changes sides when Chester V insults her even while asking her to help kill Flint and his friends. The holograms, Chester V’s only remaining allies, cannot prevent Chester V, defeated, from falling into his own foodbar machine. His vest saves his life, but then he gets immediately eaten by the cheese-spider-dog thing.

Final image
Flint’s machine is reactivated and the technicolor foodimal world comes to life again. Flint and his dad go fishing.

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Other thoughts on
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

It would not be completely accurate to say it’s finely honed, but it’s coherent (if frenetic), as well as creative and entertaining. If there are some jokes or moments you don’t like, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter because there are so many. Personally, I love the puns but I could do without the poop, fart, fat and wedgie jokes—and I’m not the only one who thought those exo-suits looked like they had boobs.

I think my biggest problem, other than the lack of subtlety in the dialogue, was the limitless plasticity of the island itself. We have a sequence that goes: boring fishing town > huge pile of huge food > foodimal jungle and whatnot > dying jungle + fancy lab > jungle + town.

We’re given almost no time to feel sad (or scared) about how the jungle has taken over the town. The camera guy is momentarily distressed when he finds his old van, but IIRC Flint doesn’t shed a tear for his busted-up lab. Flint’s dad goes back to his bait shop, and it’s a shambles. Does he care? Maybe, but then he adopts some pickles. The truth slowly dawns: the island will never be the same again. Flint’s never going to eradicate the foodimals. Since the foodimals are pretty obviously not the bad guys, it’s downright upsetting when the machine is unplugged and the pretty rock candy lights die out.

Then a fancy factory is built more or less instantaneously with helicopters. Or something. Then when the evil boss gets his butt kicked, the machine is just magically reinstated. Somehow. But then… what about the people who lived in the fishing town? They return in the end credits, but that part wasn’t super clear.

Halfway through the end credits, I noticed a scene with cars and foodimals, and that was the beginning of the idea for me that the residents had (all?) moved back. The island’s population sign wasn’t a good clue, since I figured the count was just foodimals. The lab that Flint and his friends clearly created there could just have been an isolated thing. I guess I just wanted to see people arriving on boats or something, right at the start of the credits. Something like, “Hey everybody, look how much awesomer our town is now! You can all return!”

Another thing I think could have been done slightly better was showing how Flint’s friends were feeling about being evacuated to San Franjose in the first place. There’s a bit where he calls them to come along with him, and they do so eagerly, but I think they should have been more obviously unhappy about Flint’s decision to abandon their idea of a shared lab, since the theme of the movie, to the extent that it had one one, is for people who trust each other to stick together and honor their friendships, that having no friends makes you a sociopath.

Underlying that, there’s perhaps a theme I’m less happy about, which is that nature is better than technology. You might not think that’s a theme at all, since the hero is an inventor of machines. But so is the villain. All the machines of Live Corp (that’s Evil Corp, backwards!) are bad and out of place on the island. Flint and friends have to learn to respect life and natural ecosystems… despite the fact that the foodimal ecosystem has completely taken over their home. Take that, humans! the movie seems to say. The animals are pushing you out of your habitat for a change! Sigh.

And if you squint a little, this movie could be seen as vegetarian propaganda condemning factory farms where animals are raised for the purpose of being turned into food for people. The end-credits scene where foodimals (who have a language or languages, it turns out) are watching a horror movie is actually pretty disturbing. We see a watermelon being sliced and eggs and bacon frying, I think. In context, it’s too unsettling for me to call it clever. (Thanks a lot, propagandists. Now I have the vague sense I’m not supposed to eat watermelon or strawberries. Because they have faces.)

What was clever was how, according to the special features, the environments were designed to reflect different plot stages. The special features explained that the syrup swamp was purposely bleak-looking. Makes sense. I almost want to go back through the movie and take notes on when which types of colors were used. Almost.

Media “Related” to
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Check out Carl Warner’s food landscapes in his online portfolio.

Watch the awesome Disney movie Wreck-It Ralph, which takes place partly in a car-racing arcade video game called Sugar Rush, in which everything is made of candy.

And speaking of cars, the Pixar movie Cars has some trick landscapes and props that are car-related rather than food-related, but clever in a similar “X re-imagined as Y” kind of way.

The Disney movie Big Hero 6 takes place in a fake California city called San Fransokyo. Will Hollywood ever get tired of making stuff set in California, even when it isn’t set in California?

Cloudy 2 is obviously the sequel to the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which was loosely based on the children’s picture book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.