-- The FLDSMDFR lives!
It's not too much of a spoiler to tell you that, because without the FLDSMDFR, more precisely known as the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, there would hardly be reason for a sequel to the sweet and entertaining 2009 family film, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."
And if "Cloudy 2," which ups the zany quotient in the continued adventures of Flint and his food-producing FLDSMDFR (we just love the name, so we'll keep saying it) lacks the heart and fresh feel of the original, it almost makes up for it in gorgeous, color-popping visuals and in its most important new creation: the Foodimals.
Like we said, almost.
But first, what are Foodimals? Your kids probably know already, and pretty soon, they're gonna be asking for their Foodimals multivitamins. So you'd better educate yourself.
Watermelephants. Bananostriches. Shrimpanzees. Tacodiles. Cheesepiders. Yes, the remnants of FLDSMDFR's food storm have turned into living things.
To recap, at the end of the last movie, Flint (voiced by Bill Hader) had saved the world by heroically deactivating his over-performing FLDSMDFR, with the help of his brainy friend and sort-of love interest, Sam (Anna Faris), and others including "Baby" Brent (Andy Samberg), loyal monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), and Flint's dad Tim (James Caan).
The sequel, directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, begins precisely eight minutes later, with Flint's Swallow Falls facing a huge cleanup job from that giant storm created by, yup, the FLDSMDFR. Or, in one of the first of the movie's many, many puns: a disaster "of epic portions."
Here we have no devious mayor, but a new villain: Chester V, the head of Live Corp., clearly modeled after Steve Jobs and Apple (small kids won't get this, but I sat next to a 10-year-old who did). Chester (Will Forte) whisks Flint and his friends up to Live Corp. HQ, where aspiring inventors compete to win Chester's favor. This HQ, which could be Google-inspired as much as Apple, has free caffeine stations (caffeine patches, too), which serve up things like "quinoa lattes," for an easy grownup laugh.
Flint thinks Chester wants his knowhow, but all Chester really wants is the FLDSMDFR, for his own dodgy reasons. So he sends Flint back down to Swallow Falls, where he and his loyal friends soon discover that the FLDSMDFR is not only alive but has created those seemingly monstrous Foodimals. The only problem: they're actually not monstrous. Especially the strawberries and the marshmallows. They're adorable.
Enough on the plot – your enjoyment will probably depend on your tolerance of those countless food-based puns dreamed up by script writers Erica Rivinoja, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Some might find these tiresome, but let's just note here that this is a kid movie, and KIDS LOVE PUNS. So they laugh at "There's a leek in the boat." And they laugh even more the second time.
And if a character notes that something is a "piece of cake," well, why wouldn't you introduce a nice piece of cake? Personally I could have done without the "cut the cheese" pun. But guess what the kids thought of it?
For the adults, there's enough to admire in the beautiful visuals – trees of a truly stunning purplish burgundy, for one small example – and cultural references like "Jurassic Park" and even, I thought, "The Lion King." You'll likely chuckle at the Silicon Valley-type setting called "San Fran Jose." There's also a hilarious simultaneous translation scene, performed by a helpful strawberry.
And did we mention the FLDSMDFR?
"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," a Sony Pictures Animation release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for "mild rude humor." Three stars out of four.
MPAA rating definition for PG: Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
The studio has lured some pretty good gets from celebrities either looking to impress their kids or earn a stable residual check, but Paul Newman is the cherry on top... or should that be the salad dressing?
118. Annie Potts as Bo Peep ("Toy Story")
117. John Turturro as Francesco Bernoulli ("Cars 2")
116. Vanessa Redgrave as Mama Topolino/The Queen ("Cars 2")
115. Tony Shalhoub as Luigi ("Cars 2")
114. Cheech Marin as Ramone ("Cars")
113. Whoopi Goldberg as Stretch ("Toy Story 3")
112. Will Arnett as Horst ("Ratatouille")
111. Roddy McDowall as Mr. Soil ("A Bug's Life")
110. Wallace Shawn as Rex ("Toy Story")
109. George Carlin as Fillmore ("Cars")
108. Bruce Campbell as Rod "Torque" Redline ("Cars 2")
107. Penn Jillette as TV Announcer ("Toy Story")
106. Frank Oz as Jeff Fungus ("Monsters Inc.")
105. Timothy Dalton as Mr. Pricklepants ("Toy Story 3")
104. Craig Ferguson as Lord Macintosh ("Brave")
103. Fred Willard as Shelby Forthright (live-action) ("WALL-E")
102. Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head ("Toy Story")
101. Sigourney Weaver as the voice of the Axiom's computer ("WALL-E")
100. R. Lee Ermey as Sarge ("Toy Story")
99. Paul Newman as Doc Hudson ("Cars")
Even amid the intense pressure to keep topping themselves movie after movie, some of the studio's best and brightest find time to voice a character or two, as did the late Joe Ranft who helped define modern animation.
98. John Lasseter as John Lassetire ("Cars 2")
97. Pete Docter as Kevin ("Up")
96. Lou Romano as Snot Rod ("Cars")
95. Lou Romano as Bernie Kropp ("The Incredibles")
94. Andrew Stanton as Crush ("Finding Nemo")
93. Andrew Stanton as Evil Emperor Zurg ("Toy Story 2")
92. Brad Bird as Ambrister Minion ("Ratatouille")
91. Brad Bird as Edna Mode ("The Incredibles")
90. Joe Ranft as Red ("Cars")
89. Joe Ranft as Jacques ("Finding Nemo")
88. Joe Ranft as Lenny ("Toy Story")
The sardonic postal worker from "Cheers" has found a home in every single Pixar movie, and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays him from doing so. His bad guy straight out of Jack Kirby-era "Fantastic Four" is the hilarious punchline of "Incredibles."
87. John Ratzenberger as Tom ("Up")
86. John Ratzenberger as Mustafa ("Ratatouille")
85. John Ratzenberger as the school of Moonfish ("Finding Nemo")
84. John Ratzenberger as Mack ("Cars 1 & 2")
83. John Ratzenberger and Kathy Najimy as John and Mary ("WALL-E")
82. John Ratzenberger as P.T. Flea ("A Bug's Life")
81. John Ratzenberger as Hamm ("Toy Story 1,2, & 3")
80. John Ratzenberger as The Abominable Snowman ("Monsters Inc.")
79. John Ratzenberger as The Underminer ("The Incredibles")
"Lawrence of Arabia" himself lent an extra air of gravitas to the stuck-up food critic who gets magically transported back to his childhood via a simple peasant dish.
78. Teddy Newton as Chatter Telephone ("Toy Story 3")
77. Bud Luckey as Chuckles ("Toy Story 3")
76. Willem Dafoe as Gill ("Finding Nemo")
75. Denis Leary as Francis ("A Bug's Life")
74. Jeff Garlin as Captain B. McCrea ("WALL-E")
73. Peter O'Toole as Anton Ego ("Ratatouille")
The Bad Parents
For years comedian Patton Oswalt used Brian Dennehy as a punchline in his act, so it was fitting that the great character actor should wind up playing his garbage eating, philistine rat of a father.