-- 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.

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