Friday, 18 October 2013

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 (U)

As is often mentioned in these hallow pages (and the new podcast, when I get it edited), the best children's films work on many levels - so the adults can enjoy it as much as the youngsters.

And that was certainly the case with the first Meatballs movie, where we met Flint Lockwood and revelled in his many failed inventions - right up to the point one worked, rain became food, and then it all went to hell in a tornado of spaghetti.

It was anarchic, zany, slightly surreal and was laden with jokes both visual and audible.

So would a second helping be as tasty?

This time Flint (voiced brilliantly again by Bill Hader) is trying to put everything right after the food storm, only for his science hero Chester V (Will Forte), owner of Live Corp, to come along and whisk him away to his dream job.

As ever, dreams don't tend to go well in film world, and Flint and his friends have to overcome all manner of nefarious doing to save the day. Again.

Part of the original formula is repeated (many, many puns and gags), but there have been some changes too.

This time round there's a bit more sugar in the mix, a few musical montage moments (kudos to Sir Paul McCartney for getting one of his crackin' new tunes in there) and a less than subtle anti-corporation message - but it's still zany, mad, fast-paced and has it's surreal elements.

Where last time we had roast chickens coming to life, this time around we're invoking the memory of Jurassic Park and Return Of The Jedi as food has become a species of it's own, and the indigenous population of fruit, veg and marshmallows team up to help our friends.

The food gags are particularly inspired - we have shrimpanzees, banostriches, cantelopes, melophants and Barry the strawberry, each with their own innate personality and character traits.

And there are monsters too, with a giant cheesburger running rampant and a run-in with a tacodile. You're not in Disney any more, Dorothy, that's for sure.

The cast are clearly having fun. With just one change (Terry Crews has replaced Mr T as town cop Earl), Anna Farris, James Caan, Neil Patrick Harris ("Steeevvveee") and Andy Samberg are all delivering gags and, when needed, emotion with aplomb.

It's bright, colourful, mad as a box of leeks (a fine running gag) and pays tribute to Terry Pratchett with its ape joke. What's not to like?

Granted, the tone is a bit more 'mainstream' (an obvious shift seeing as they now have an actual audience to aim at) and the messages of choosing your friends over flattering strangers is a smidge laboured - but is that a bad message to teach children?

And, yes, three musical moments is a tad OTT when the first film managed just fine with none, but I'm nitpicking here.

It's a family film that has everything for the family to enjoy together. You'll laugh a lot and, by the end, be so caught up in the adventure you'll start feeling emotions grown people shouldn't be feeling when watching cartoons.

It's simply a great film. Just don't ask where Steve got his brown crayon from.

PS: I saw it in 2D. It was great. It might work in 3D, but it won't add anything major to the essential elements of the film - which are the jokes.

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