‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’: You’ll have a ball | 3 stars

Updated: 2013-09-25T20:42:49Z


Special to The Star

It’s fitting that a pair of inventors provides “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” with its main conflict. The sequel to the 2009 hit is crammed with inventiveness, from oddball characters and a zany plot to eccentric environments created from scratch.

The film joins “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2” as yet another of this year’s animated follow-ups that don’t disappoint. In certain ways they surpass the originals.

After a title credit that reads “another film by a lot of people,” we are re-introduced to Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), an amateur inventor in Swallow Falls whose water-powered food machine previously went Terminator and buried the island town in gigantic edible goods.

With the crisis now averted, Lockwood gets recruited by scientific idol Chester V (fellow “SNL” alum Will Forte) to join Live Corp, a think tank of cutting-edge technology.

Chester reveals that Flint’s pesky machine wasn’t destroyed. Now it’s generating food/animal hybrids — foodimals — that have overrun the town. Though tasked with a solo mission to shut down the contraption, Flint allows his friends and family to tag along. These include his blue-collar, bushy-browed dad (James Caan), perky weathercaster girlfriend (Anna Faris) and hungry pet monkey (Neil Patrick Harris) fitted with a device that translates the beast’s thoughts into one-word comments.

Once on the island, they are forced to contend with its new inhabitants, which include shrimpanzees, flamangoes, watermelophants and the dreaded tacodiles. But these aren’t necessarily the greatest threat Flint must face.

The plot of “Cloudy 2” owes much to “Jurassic Park” and “The Lost World” — and filmmakers Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn toss in plenty of references to Spielberg’s dinosaur flicks, right down to colorful scenes of giant scallions dipping their heads into the frame like a brontosaurus. A standout among these clever depictions is the cheespider, a fearsome bun body with french fries for legs and multiple red eyes where the sesame seeds should be.

The sequel doesn’t just settle for showboating its foodimal haven. It also comes up with a separate unique view of the tech industry, through Chester’s Google-esque campus in Sanfranjose, Calif.

“Can your ideas change the world?” Chester asks. Or is it one of his many holograms, which also sport his signature square green glasses, white beard and yoga-toned gangly arms? His futuristic office headquarters is shaped to resemble the filament of a light bulb, but Flint and other low-level co-workers must shape their ideas in basement cubicles no better than ones found in “Office Space.”

The film alternates between these organic and cerebral worlds. That also characterizes the divide between Flint and Chester. Live Corp’s slogan is “invest in ideas,” and notice how the word that carries a monetary connotation is placed first.

“Cloudy 2” is witty and vibrant, full of strange sights and nifty punch lines. But it also has some cogent things to say about our “enterprising” society that are anything but cloudy.

3-D OR NOT 3-D?

The sequel is among the most bright and colorful of recent 3-D efforts. The process adds layers of separation that keep the expansive food landscapes from becoming too cluttered.

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