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're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve.

Jeeves and Wooster 2.5: Kidnapped  (aka The Mysterious Stranger)
Kidnapped continues the saga of Chuffnell Hall. Having said of 2.4 that the best Wodehouse adaptations tend to stick closely to the text, this one is an exception that proves the rule, diverging significantly yet still scoring with its highly preposterous additions.

Jeeves: Tis old boggy. He be abroad tonight. He be heading for the railway station.
Gone are many of the imbroglios involving Stoker and Glossop (the estimable Roger Brierley), including the contesting of the former’s uncle’s will. Also gone, sadly, is the inebriated Brinkley throwing potatoes at Stoker, which surely would have been enormous fun. Instead, we concentrate on Bertie being locked aboard Stoker’s yacht in order to secure his marriage to Pauline (as per the novel), Chuffy tailing Pauline in disguise (so there’s a different/additional reason for Stoker to believe Bertie and she spent the night together, this time at a pub en route to Chufnell Hall) and …

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Barbarians? You call us barbarians?

The Omega Man (1971)
(SPOILERS) Chuck Heston battles albino mutants in 1970s LA. Sure-fire, top-notch B-hokum, right? Can’t miss? Unfortunately, The Omega Man is determinedly pedestrian, despite gestures towards contemporaneity with its blaxploitation nods and media commentary so faint as to be hardly there. Although more tonally subdued and simultaneously overtly “silly” in translating the vampire lore from Richard Matheson’s I am Legend, the earlier The Last Man on Earth is probably the superior adaptation.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

They say if we go with them, we'll live forever. And that's good.

Cocoon (1985)
Anyone coming across Cocoon cold might reasonably assume the involvement of Steven Spielberg in some capacity. This is a sugary, well-meaning tale of age triumphing over adversity. All thanks to the power of aliens. Substitute the elderly for children and you pretty much have the manner and Spielberg for Ron Howard and you pretty much have the approach taken to Cocoon. Howard is so damn nice, he ends up pulling his punches even on the few occasions where he attempts to introduce conflict to up the stakes. Pauline Kael began her review by expressing the view that consciously life-affirming movies are to be consciously avoided. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but you’re definitely wise to steel yourself for the worst (which, more often than not, transpires).

Cocoon is as dramatically inert as the not wholly dissimilar (but much more disagreeable, which is saying something) segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie directed by Spielberg (Kick the Can). There, OAPs rediscover their in…

I think it’s gratuitous, but whatever.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best
This is an update of a ranking previously published in 2018. I’d intended to post it months ago but these things get side-tracked. You can find the additions of Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home and a revised assessment of Ant-Man and the Wasp. There are also a few tweaks here and there.

Actually, I look like a can of smashed assholes.

The Arrival (1996)
(SPOILERS) I’m mostly an advocate of David Twohy’s oeuvre, from his screenplay for Warlock (Richard E Grant as an action hero!) onwards. In particular, like a number of writers turned aspiring directors (David Koepp, Scott Frank, the Gilroys) he has also shown himself to be proficient behind the camera. His Riddick movies (albeit only the first half of the third) are enjoyably B-ridden, while A Perfect Getaway is giddily delirious confection. I’d managed to mostly forget The Arrival, however, so with another similarly titled science fiction picture incoming, it seemed like a good time for a 20th anniversary revisit. The most surprising aspect is that, while Twohy’s direction is competent and script serviceable, this is Charlie Sheen’s movie through-and-through. In a good way.

That’s Charlie Sheen pre-tiger’s blood (here his character, the ludicrously named Zane Zaminsky even states “I don’t like blood”), also a few years shy of finding a more profitable home on televis…