“What did you think of the movie,” I asked my 6-year-old as we walked out of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.
“It was OK, but it wasn’t very good,” she said. I couldn’t help agreeing with her.
A sequel to the successful Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film that came out in 2009, Cloudy 2 (PG for mild, rude humor) picks up where the first film left off. Swallow Falls (or Chewandswallow) has been overrun by mutant food monsters and is now the object of a UN-directed environmental cleanup.
Flint Lockwood, the inventor of the flubbed-up food machine, is tapped by his childhood idol—the impossibly narcissistic inventor Chester V—to head the expedition, an endeavor that has already taken the lives of several scientists. Flint and his band of friends head to the island to “save the world” from a voracious host of cheese spiders, watermelephants, tacodiles, and shrimpanzees.
After escaping the jaws of a man-eating hamburger, Sam Sparks, Flint’s meteorologist friend, discovers that the “dangerous” food is really just trying to protect itself and its adorable little offspring. Chester V, you see, is really an evil genius who hopes to turn the oversized foodstuff of Swallow Falls into health bars, “killing” the helpless beings—a rather annoying nod to certain food movements.
Flint and the gang must stop him or risk the imminent death of all the baby marshmallows, pickles, carrots, leaks, and onions.
While most kids probably won’t pick up on it, there seems to be a pedantic desire on the part of writers Judi and Ron Barrett to educate kids on the importance of science and math. (STEM education anyone?) While there’s nothing wrong with educational goals to improve innovation and creativity, beating kids over the head with it is uninspiring.
Children know a good story from a bad one, and even though younger children may not be able to articulate it clearly, they’ll notice that the humor, mostly body humor, is forced and weary, the story disjointed, and the sweet imaginative nature of the original book the films are based upon completely gone. Granted, the animation and color scheme, particularly in the 3-D version, is dazzling, but these techno tricks don’t make up for the crummy plot.
C.S. Lewis’ summed it up perfectly in his essay, “On Juvenile Taste.”
“The literary world of today,” Lewis said, “is little interested in the narrative art as such; it is preoccupied with technical novelties and with ‘ideas,’ by which it means not literary, but social or psychological, ideas.”
Lewis believed there were two types of writers for children—the “right sort” and the “wrong sort.”
“The wrong sort believe that children are a ‘distinct race,’” he wrote. “They carefully ‘make-up’ the tastes of these odd creatures—like an anthropologist observing the habits of a savage tribe. They dish up not what they like themselves, but what that race is supposed to like. Educational and moral, as well as commercial motives come into play.”
And so we have Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2—an “OK movie that’s not very good.”