As is often the case with big animated features these days, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 needs to be evaluated on a different set of criteria than your average film. It's a delight of a movie, but outside of being a form of entertainment, it's running on a wholly unique set of guiding principles. Namely: quality of puns, cuteness, whimsy, and face-melting explosions of color. Like the Despicable Me movies, Cloudy is less a fine animated feature than an out-and-out cartoon hellbent on cracking jokes and having fun. The characters move in exaggerated manifestations of their personalities, their eyes are either wide and bright or hidden for comedic effect, and they operate in a world where the anthropomorphic foodstuff of dreams is considered hard science. Let's be real: criticism outside of gauging the movie's ability to make you smile is sort of missing the point. Logic? Nope. Cohesiveness? Not important. Story? Just enough to take you on a safari. Though there's certainly art here, of course. It's a brilliant case study in cuteness and the human ability to fall in love with anything that has a pair of eyes and a smile, but it's unlikely anyone involved in the production was gunning for prestige
Cloudy 2 is instead a hybrid of psychedelic confection and comedy geekdom. Bill Hader returns to voice enthusiastic young inventor Flint Lockwood, and we open in the moments following the first film. Flint and friends have stopped his rogue food replicator from producing weather altering, oversized eats, but it's too late: their island town is all but hidden beneath piles of hamburgers and its citizens are evacuated as clean-up commences. In the bright and shiny world of the cartoon, all the chipper folk of Swallow Falls are ushered into new, temporary jobs in a Silicone Valley-esque city dominated by a innovative corporation called Live Corp. The enigmatic genius at Live Corp's helm, Chester V (Will Forte) is Flint's lifelong hero. Given the chance to make his mark on the world, Flint can't seem to see that Chester may in fact be up to no good. When it's discovered that the food residue on Swallow Falls has begun morphing and taking on new, semi-monstrous qualities, Chester sends Flint back home on a top secret mission...that our wacky scientist just can't help inviting all his friends and family along on. From there, Flint, weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), and the whole gang embark on a fantastic voyage through every possible food pun known to man with an energy that's nothing short of infectious.
Look. The fact is that I'm someone who has spent weeks with Netflix sending me nothing but Rainer Werner Fassbinder films and find art documentaries. While I waited for my friend to get there I was sitting at a table reading Hegel, and afterward I had to head home to consider some Jacobean drama. When I was in that theater? I laughed. I laughed hard. I squeeeeed. It was shameless, I enjoyed every second of it. Sometimes, my friend, it's ok to let yourself like something that doesn't aspire towards greatness, that doesn't try to make you think, or that isn't particularly new. Harness your pretensions, give yourself a break, strike a balance, and take comfort in the coo of the smiling strawberry, in the spindly legs of the fishing pickles, in the cuddly illogic of the swimming marshmallow. Shhhh. All is well. It's ok. It's ok.