Skip to main content

That bunch of bananostriches nearly split us!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
(2013)

(SPOILERS) Phil Lord and Chris Miller elected not to return as directors for this sequel (unlike with their other franchise, 20-something Jump Street), although they did contribute the storyline. Nothing about Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 suggests they spent more than 10 minutes brainstorming; if the first film saw them going for a disaster movie, here they take the lost continent/ unexplored island route. The result is visually much more inventive than its predecessor, but manages to be simultaneously both narratively formulaic and thematically confused.


Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn make their theatrical debut as directors, while the finished screenplay is credited to Erica Rivinoja (a staff writer on South Park, but more importantly on Lord and Miller’s Clone High), Jonathan Francis Daley and Jonathan M Goldstein (partners on Horrible Bosses and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, so a formidably average pair). Seven individuals contributing to the writing and directing is more than enough to come up with a complete mess, and to get to the point where they in desperation they decide to approve two “There’s a leak in the boat!” gags (it is funny the first time, but it’s the desperate comedian who repeats himself during an encore).


Cloudy 2 picks up directly after the original, unusual in itself for an animation, but any ground-breaking qualities end soon after. Flint Lockwood’s hero, master-inventor Chester V (Will Forte voicing a highly unsubtle riff on Steve Jobs), sends Flint and his chums to California. Chester, the CEO of Live Corp (Apple; Chester even unveils new improved versions of his famous food bar and has built “the coolest, hippest company in the world”) has been charged with cleaning up their island of Swallow Falls. This in itself has potential, running with the notion that science and business combined lead to untold pollution; Sallow Falls is treated like an oil spill of enormous food. Really, though, Chester just wants to get his mitts on Flint’s FLDSMDFR. Hampered by mutant food creatures (monster cheeseburgers in particular) Chester calls on Flint to find and destroy the FLDSMDFR (so Flint thinks). So it’s the big mean corporation up to no good, which is fine but the delivery is entirely half-hearted. There’s no relish to go with the rampant foodimals.


The transformed Swallow Falls is the best feature of the feature. Arriving in mysterious, overgrown land, the inspiration is clearly the mist-shrouded Skull Island and the Lost World (the Jurassic Park one, that is) complete with a technicolour explosion of assorted oddments of animal food hybrids. They probably needed the five writers to come up with the different medleys; shrimpanzees, cantelopes (okay, that’s good), water melonphants, bananostriches and guacodiles (there are also spring onion diplodocuses and hipotatoes); an entire ecosystem of living food. Which provides a solid series of sight gags, but there’s little else here. Flint’s enrapture with Chester (they were even both bullied at school) leads to him shunning his friends, leading to an awkward churning of sentimental drivel concerning the power of friendship; as with the first picture, none of this feels remotely genuine. It’s there because that’s what’s required of a family animation.


And yet, there are some very peculiar implications in all this. The vegetation gone sentient can only be seen as an allusion to GMOs (which Chester plans to put in his food bars because they’re extra tasty). Which makes Flint, as before, a really highly destructive force. One might suggest there’s a subversive streak, as the picture ends up at a point of protecting these foodimals from being skewered; “They are living creatures!” Perhaps the makers want kids to avoid GM food for sentimental reasons, since telling them it’s bad will do little to dissuade them. That’s clutching at straws, though. The very strange thing is that one moment anthropomorphised vegetables are a no-go area but the next Flint and his dad are killing fish in a father-son bonding session.


Accompanying wit and commentary are in short supply, aside from the lazy Apple material. This time, alternative fuel sources go no further than “a zero-emissions car that runs on cute”. There are a number of vulgar gags, the best of which is “Stand back – I’m going to cut the cheese” and the worst involve a baby strawberry shitting jam out of fright and Brent soiling his diaper. I appreciated the use of the Six Million Dollar Man sound effect. It can only be a matter of time before Lord and Miller remake it.


Given the four-year gap, one might expect more than a “churn it out” sequel but the original wasn’t really all that special in the first place. Cloudy 3 will no doubt be along in a couple of years. Hopefully there will be a bit more thought behind it, lest we get another movie where the subtext is that Monsanto are the good guys and Apple are the bad ones (the pendulum may be swinging against the latter, but such a take on the former beggars belief).





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

You know what I think? I think he just wants to see one cook up close.

The Green Mile (1999)
(SPOILERS) There’s something very satisfying about the unhurried confidence of the storytelling in Frank Darabont’s two prison-set Stephen King adaptations (I’m less beholden to supermarket sweep The Mist); it’s sure, measured and precise, certain that the journey you’re being take on justifies the (indulgent) time spent, without the need for flashy visuals or ornate twists (the twists there are feel entirely germane – with a notable exception – as if they could only be that way). But. The Green Mile has rightly come under scrutiny for its reliance on – or to be more precise, building its foundation on – the “Magical Negro” trope, served with a mild sprinkling of idiot savant (so in respect of the latter, a Best Supporting Actor nomination was virtually guaranteed). One might argue that Stephen King’s magical realist narrative flourishes well-worn narrative ploys and characterisations at every stage – such that John Coffey’s initials are announcement enough of his…

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983)
(SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bonds in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball, but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again, despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy.

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded
The Premise
George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Just make love to that wall, pervert!

Seinfeld 2.10: The Statue
The Premise
Jerry employs a cleaner, the boyfriend of an author whose book Elaine is editing. He leaves the apartment spotless, but Jerry is convinced he has made off with a statue.

Charming. Now she's got the old boy's money, she's making a play for the younger one.

Woman of Straw (1964)
(SPOILERS) The first fruit of Sean cashing in on his Bond status in other leading man roles – he even wears the tux he’d later sport in Goldfinger. On one level, he isn’t exactly stretching himself as a duplicitous, misogynist bastard. On the other, he is actually the bad guy; this time, you aren’t supposed to be onside his capacity for killing people. It’s interesting to see Connery in his nascent star phase, but despite an engaging set up and a very fine performance from Ralph Richardson, Woman of Straw is too much of a slow-burn, trad crime thriller/melodrama to really make a mark. All very professionally polished, but the spoiled fruits of an earlier era.