Published Sep 26, 2013As summarized in a highly kinetic, slyly sarcastic opening montage — one that sets the tone for a rapid-paced work of absurdist comedy and surrealist imagery — the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs detailed the development of a device that transformed water into food, created by an insecure, perpetual loser of a scientist. It was all a metaphor for reactionary thinking during economic draught — the quick-fix solution to financial woes went from effective to disastrous when the food falling from the sky got out of control — but maintained a trajectory of accepting the self despite inherent limitations.
With Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) learns the valuable life lesson that our idols are mostly power-hungry sociopaths. His idealism and loyalty are challenged when Chester V (Will Forte), a notable scientist and CEO of Live Corp (an ersatz think tank that makes power bars), brings him on as an employee with altogether duplicitous motivations. Flint's infamous food-development machine is still operational back in his island hometown, creating a legion of living food animals that Chester V fears will learn to swim and take over the world.
Since Chester is always plotting with his talking ape assistant, Barb (Kristen Schaal), trying to separate Flint from his friends — reporter Sam (Anna Faris), father Tim (James Caan), cop Earl (Terry Crews) and idiot man-child Brent (Andy Samberg) — it's clear that Flint's assigned quest to recover his device and stop the food monsters isn't just a rescue mission.
That the advent of giant hamburgers with French fry legs attempting to swim is, in essence, hilarious (or, contrarily, horrifying for those on hallucinogenic drugs) isn't lost on Meatballs 2. Self-conscious jokes about the ridiculous nature of the plot, eschewing logic in favour of a more entertaining mode of presentation, showing an endless array of food animals (butter frogs, French toast mosquitoes, taco alligators and shrimp orangutans, to name a few), ensures consistent visual and comic stimulation for the duration.
In fact, this surprisingly witty animation rarely slows down, featuring sidebar jokes — Flint's monkey, Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), fighting to put out a reigniting sparkler or the visual consistency of a poop smear ("Where did Steve get the brown crayon?") on a friendship map — during scenes of exposition to keep up the pace of a film conscious of both adult and youth audiences.
This sense of irreverence and an overall anarchic sensibility amidst a text that reiterates the importance of staying loyal to friends is both contrary and fitting. The inherent morality rumbling beneath the wildly colourful artifice denotes the disconnect between faith and science. Flint's admiration of a renowned scientist — a man playing God — becomes the impetus behind a crisis of scientific faith and loss of idealism. Similarly, once the food-monster island is revealed as an evolutionary achievement, reiterating the naturalist assertion that life finds a way, the sense of creature delusion — worshipping a God they see on the television — is presented as a progressively dismissive nod to the antiquity of collective faith.
None of this is obvious, nor are the many makers of Meatballs 2 interested in forcing an overly politicized agenda on a primarily youthful audience, but the fact that cult behaviour is comically ubiquitous enough to work without explanation is commentary in itself. Similarly, that the bigger picture assertion here — vilifying a modern-day God — refutes institutions that purport an ideology Ayn Rand would support (giving power to the few) reiterates the base message of friendship and basic human connection (remaining sincere within that limited, self-sustaining lexicon) as exceedingly vital.
Underneath the amusing sequences of talking strawberries defecating jam and taco monsters chasing down our plucky gang of unlikely friends, the idea that, in a modern scientific world where blind faith is impossible, the only things we have to hold on to are the relationships we develop and the memories we acquire. (Sony)