Back in 2009, Sony Pictures Animation successfully stretched a short children's book, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," into a feature film. The story centered on science geek Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) and spunky weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), who protected the island of Swallow Falls from the spaghetti storms and meatball meteors he invented. Writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller piled on the food-based humor but also mixed in three key ingredients: charm, intelligence and heart.
For "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2," Lord and Miller are gone, and so is nearly everything that made the first film a treat. The likable Hader and Faris are back and a few jokes are worth an adult chuckle. Mostly, "Cloudy 2" relies on the usual noxious recipe for junky kid flicks: loud noise, pop music and poop jokes.
The discombobulated story begins with Swallow Falls in FEMA mode, its food-soaked citizens forcibly evacuated. Flint goes to work for tech guru Chester V (a funny Will Forte), head of LiveCorp, "the coolest, hippest company in the world," based in San FranJose. Chester, a parody of various Silicon Valley gurus, is a clever creation, but what's his connection to Swallow Falls? It turns out Flint didn't quite destroy his food-generating gizmo, and the island is now a "Jurassic Park" of living foodstuffs, populated by shrimpanzees and flamangoes. Chester wants them destroyed, but Flint isn't sure.
"Cloudy 2" is so overstuffed with ham-fisted jokes -- sorry, even I'm doing it -- it leaves little time for Flint and his friends to interact. Dopey Brent (Andy Samberg), spastic monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris), tough cop Earl (Terry Crews, replacing Mr. T) and Flint's gruff dad (James Caan) do a lot of shouting and screaming, but little else. Some gags make no sense -- pickles that go fishing? -- and too many are of the "cut the cheese" variety. At least this butt-obsessed sequel isn't in 3-D.
Frenetically directed by Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" shoves as much down your throat as it can. In the end, though, you'll leave feeling empty.
PLOT The food-swamped town of Swallow Falls has a new problem: The leftovers are alive.
RATING PG (some rude humor)
CAST Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Andy Samberg
BOTTOM LINE A gaseous, overstuffed sequel to the charming 2009 original.