The first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs proved that even a cinematic cynic can be pleasantly surprised. With fairly simple animation and a premise that looked like kiddie pandering, it looked like a definite miss...and then turned out to be a surprisingly witty and smart film for all ages in the best way, thanks to the wacky comedic sensibilities of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and the canny casting of the likes of Bill Hader, Anna Faris and Mr. T.
Lord and Miller were too busy with 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie to return for the sequel, but animators Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn - both of whom worked on the first film - stepped up for the sequel, a riff on Jurassic Park featuring "foodimals" in place of dinosaurs. Earlier this week, they and lead actors Hader, Faris and Benjamimn Bratt gave us a sneak peek at what they've been working on.
The second film picks up approximately 60 seconds after the last film ended - albeit after a strawberry riding on a banana has knocked over the torch lady in the Columbia logo, and hapless inventor Flint (Hader) has given us some new backstory about his childhood idol Chester V (Will Forte), host of The Scientifically Wonderful World of Science alongside an orangutan named Barb (Kristen Schaal), who boasts a human brain inside of an ape brain "like a turducken." Anyway, from there we're right back to the moments following the final kiss, as Swallow Falls is saved and Flint and Sam finally bond.
Hader: "It's kind of the Karate Kid/Karate Kid 2 thing, where Karate Kid 2 picks up immediately after the first one. and when I was a kid and I saw that I was like 'OHHHH, OHH, there was a fight in the parking lot after the fight at the end of the movie? OHHHH, this is great!' That's kinda what this is like."
Into the mix comes the Steve Jobs-like Chester V, whose Live Corp swoops in to quarantine the island, even as he offers Flint a job at his state-of-the-art facility in the city of San Fran Jose, where a giant lightbulb-shaped corporate HQ (The idea is always on") stands tall in the middle of the bay. On Flint's first day at work, a non-stop array of lattes and geek-speak await, along with several tweaks at Google and Apple, with the best of the best being dubbed "Thinquanauts."
Flint finds a way to screw up his job, but when called into the secret virtual log cabin of Chester V - populated entirely by holograms of Chester in multiple roles, a la the inside of John Malkovich's head - he is given a chance at redemption: go back to Swallow Falls and find the food-making machine that's still there somewhere, as well as the endangered Live Corp scientists stranded there by mysterious monsters. As it will turn out, the sentient Gummi Bears and chickens at the end of the last movie were only the beginning - many new and terribly punny foodimals now roam, including the cheespider, the tacodile, the watermelephant and mosquitoast.
For the cast, getting back into character was not as easy as they expected. For Faris, "They told me that my first session was unusable, because apparently I wasn't back in character...There were a couple of times when i was told that that does not sound like Sam Sparks, which is kind of interesting...I think if I get in too much of like a gravelly, mellow voice, Sam is higher. Mostly I have to raise my eyebrows and act really concerned."
Hader, who describes himself as " a very low-energy person," describes "four-hour, five-hour sessions, screaming, and I was doing SNL at the time, so i would have to go in and my voice would be all shot, and everyone would go, 'What's wrong with your voice?'
'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.'
'Didn't you already do that?'
'No, we're doing a second one.'"
Not that the first one wasn't its own challenge. "On the very first Cloudy, I tried to do it in a different way, I tried to make it more charactery, and they were constantly unhappy with what i was doing. Then in between takes, I'd go 'Is that what you guys want?' Andd they're like 'THAT, that right there!' I was like, 'so, just my voice?' and they were like 'Yeeeahhh!'"
Asked if they ever suggested foodimals of their own, Faris expressed disappointment that her "cornicorn" suggestion wasn't used (dare we suggest a sea urchin sushi hybrid for an uni-corn?), adding "Maybe they don't like unicorns."
Hader: "Maybe they're not a girl. Maybe they like reality." His own suggestion was "dog, because that's an animal and it could be a food. Like a hot dog, or it could be like in some cultures where they eat dogs. Just dog. They were like, fuck you."
As for those of us in attendance, we got a hands-on session in playing with our food, courtesy of producer Kirk Bodyfelt:
Next: the directors speak