After six years of reviewing nearly every kiddie flick on this site, I’ve realized the futility of trying to say something different while essentially rewatching the same movie over and over again. I’ve tried to figure out why children’s movies feel more vulnerable to this stagnation than any other type of film, and I think it’s because parents usually only watch movies for any given age group for a few years before their kid gets older and loses interest. In the grand scheme of kiddie flick audiences, a lot of parents won’t mind or notice that they’re repeatedly paying for the same movie with a different color scheme. The past year or two of children’s movies has been particularly guilty of sequelitis and uninventive story recycling for the sake of wham-bam action and pretty imagery.
Let’s do this anyway.
Way back in 2009, a cute little movie called Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs managed to be a hell of a lot of fun while teaching children some semi-valuable lessons about the dangers of overindulgence. The movie was full of zany food falling from the sky at the hands of genius underdog inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader). On the outside, Cloudy looked like a riff on disaster flicks, but it was really a heartwarming tale that provided entertainment, a cool story, and character development without delving into overbearing territory. In the sequel, the writers grew lazy and decided to reinvent the cheese wheel while leaning upon the shocking truth that corporations are evil and heartless.
As if an audience has never heard that message in a children’s film before today.
As a sequel, Cloudy 2 is absolutely more of the same without adding anything to the mix. Sadly, this movie also forgets about good, old-fashioned fun at the expense of additional spectacle and proselytization. At the end of the first film, the food-making machine (the FLDSMDFR) went awry and started producing sentient munchies. Now the sequel reveals how Flint’s amazing invention has fully gone apeshit. Now predatory Foodimals have risen in manner of a quarter-assed Jurassic Park. Somewhere in the manufacturing process, the machine spawned an entire monster-filled ecosystem, and our characters must figure out what to do in the face of new species like Tacodiles, Shrimpanzees, Watermelophants, Susheep, Cheespiders, and a plague of Mosquitoasts. Of course, a Bill Gates-esque character named Chester V (Will Forte) wants the FLDSMDFR for his own profitable purposes. Not only that, but he wishes to grind up these new creatures and make them into consumable food. Because that’s what corporations do. Destroy!
Returning for the sticky ride are meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) and the grating Baby Brent (Andy Samberg). These characters, who once seemed so charming, are now annoyances. I mean, after you see the millionth different variety of food monster, the mouth-gaping and moaning ought to stop. I harbor such open, unsophisticated disgust for this sequel, which is a disheartening reaction since the first movie was enjoyable. The gimmick has truly worn thin at this point. Cloudy 2 would have fared better as a direct-to-DVD sequel instead of continuing the descent into eye-rolling craziness for the sake of it.
If I had to say something nice, it’s that Cloudy 2 is beautifully rendered, so if one wants to stare at a feature-length sea of nonsense, it’s at least worth that pleasure. The first movie taught kids not to mess with nature and played with absurdity without going overboard. The results in this sequel are so ridiculously laughable that the joy is lost in a wash of crazy-as-possible food stunts and puns (“There’s a leek in my boat!”). God, this is one pun-filled movie. If there’s anything to be learned from Cloudy 2 it’s that genetic engineering can have unintended effects on an ecosystem. That lesson would have been fine on its own, but of course the dastardly corporate jungle had to be dragged into the story. I have no problem with criticism of such systems, but it sure gets old to watch children’s movies take the same old, predictable angle every goddamn time. This is especially sketchy when the point of making Cloudy 2 was clearly to sell all sorts of products in conjunction with ticket sales. Spare me your lofty ideology as you gather up the millions, Hollywood. And may the next children’s movie be more enjoyable. I have hope for the holiday season.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa. She & her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.