In the pun-laden parlance of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” food scientist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) faces an eggsistential crisis. In the 2009 original story, his miracle water-into-food-making device went blooey, burying his island hometown of Swallow Falls in a deluge of cheeseburger hail and pasta tornadoes.
In “Cloudy 2,” the gizmo goes further on the fritz, turning the food-flooded town into a Jurassic Park of Hippotatomuses, Tacodiles, Bananostriches and Wildebeets.
For all that, it’s hardly a comedic feast.
Like its overeager hero, “Cloudy” charges off wildly in all directions. Rather than picking targets for its humor and firing a few bull’s-eyes, it shoots off random gags like buckshot, scoring some hits and plenty of misses.
“Cloudy 2” brings back the first film’s cast with all their tics intact. Weather announcer Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) is now Flint’s best gal pal. Reformed bully Brent (Andy Samberg) is his even more bumbling sidekick. Blustering policeman Earl (Terry Crews, replacing Mr. T) is on hand for situations requiring fortitude and muscle. And Flint’s widowed father, Tim (James Caan), hopes to forge a closer relationship with his son through a fishing trip that never seems to get past the planning stage.
There’s a dose of high-tech corporate satire, with Apple-like LIVE Corp. — “the coolest company ever” — recruiting Flint to join the ranks of its master scientists (but actually to seize his haywire invention). Live’s founder, slippery tech guru Chester V (Will Forte in evil Steve Jobs mode) is shadowed by a platoon of lookalike holograms, the ultimate yes men. The company’s absurd efforts to keep its employees productively over-caffeinated, and Chester’s New Age platitudes, won’t make much sense to the film’s grade-school target audience.
On the other hand, most grownups will get more pleasure from their kids’ reaction to the corny Shrimpanzees and Cheespiders than from the facile jokes (“There’s a leek in my boat!”).
Where the film excels is its look. Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn give the characters a flailing Play-Doh flexibility and a cartoonish visual design that’s quite pleasing. Hurricane-haired, wide-eyed Flint is a likable dweeb just standing there, while Chester, with his sharp triangular goatee and rubbery arms, is a disturbing sight even as he pours on his oily smarm.
The architecture of LIVE’s headquarters resembles a sleek, sterile honeycomb. The anthropomorphic food creatures are sweet, and the film even wrings good laughs from its use of color. Flint’s new party-in-a-box invention, the explosive Celebrationator, splatters multicolored goo in a 30-foot radius like so much sticky confetti. After it’s triggered, the area resembles the site of a particularly heated paintball contest.
An innocuous time-waster, “Cloudy 2” will surely be a family smash. Too bad a film about the joys of invention and creativity didn’t embody those qualities itself. Watermelephants? Really?