The plot's predictable, but the characters are lovable in 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2'
Starring: Bill Hader, James Caan, Anna Faris, Terry Crews, Andy Samberg), Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Will Forte
Directed by: Cameron and Kris Pearn
Stars: 2 1/2 out of 4
Some sequels try to take the characters to new places and new adventures.
Others play it safe and put the characters back into what amounts to a new version of the same problem they had last time.
"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" chose the latter route, sending our hero Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), his dad Tim (James Caan), girlfriend Samantha Sparks (Anna Faris), and friends Officer Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews replaces Mr. T), Baby Brent McHale (Andy Samberg), cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt) and monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris) back to the food-infested island of Swallow Falls.
The sequel picks up minutes after the original ends, with Flint having successfully shut down his out-of-control food-making machine, the FLDSMDFR.
Flint meets his childhood hero, inventor Chester V (Will Forte), who now runs the wildly successful LIVE Corp., when he's called in to clean up the island.
He offers Flint a job at LIVE Corp., in San Fran Jose, Calif., so Flint and his friends relocate there. Flint has visions of creating a new invention that will make him one of Chester V's elite thinkers. It doesn't take long for Flint to end up as an outcast once again, mocked by his peers.
Chester V offers him a shot at redemption: Return to Swallow Falls to recover the FLDSMDFR, which has apparently sprung back to life and is now producing food animals, or foodimals.
The good news is that a return to an island of food opens up the dialog for lots of fun food puns, as Flint and the gang encounter a strawberry they name Barry, as well as shrimpanzees, flamangos and a tacodile, among others. Swallow Falls has essentially become a Jurassic Park of food creatures.
But we've seen this before, as Flint and his ragtag team of misfits wind their way through food to the center of the island to shut down the FLDSMDFR.
The new, but not at all surprising twist is that Chester V is not nearly as benevolent as Flint believed; as his motives become clear, the gang's true mission is revealed.
If you were a fan of the original "Cloudy," then the sequel is worth your time, even though it's not on a par with the original; it's fun to see these characters again. Steve once again steals the show with his one-word exclamations.
Kids will love the food creatures, unconcerned about the rehash of the first "Cloudy" or the many clichéd plot points.
Don't leave the theater when the closing credits begin — you won't want to miss gags such as Flint appearing on "Late Night with Cornan."