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Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 (2013)

Flint Lockwood and his friends return to find their home island has become overall with "Leftovers" strange food-animal hybrids, in this sequel to the surprise 2009 smash. Nobody could have predicted that the original film would have worked as well as it did. Turning a 32 Page Children's Bookinto a hilarious and visually inventive spin on disaster movies, it was one of the most surprising animated flicks of recent years. Then again director's Phil Lord and Chris Miller have made a whole career on defying low expectations, following up Cloudy with 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. Alas, Lord and Miller did not come back for this sequel, and only get producing and story credits this time around.

This time we get unknowns Cody Cameron- who's directing credits include straight-to-video Open Season 3- and first timer Kris Pearn. And the absence of the original writer-directors is felt pretty clearly. It looks like Cloudy. It sounds like Cloudy. But it's impossible to shake the feeling that something is just a little... off. It's Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs: Pod People edition.

The fundamental problem here is that Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 is just not funny. As so often happens when new screenwriters attempt to recreate the work of other's, the writers (who include Horrible Bosses' John Francis Daley) just can't recreate the magic. The scattershot nature of the jokes means that occasionally one hits home, but they are few and far between.

Picking up literally where the first film left off, the island's residents are relocated so that the clean-up following the storms can begin. For the first part of the film, it seems our worst fears have been realised, with the jokes failing to raise a smile. The flashbacks to the first film, only make it worse, reminding you of happier times. However, once the film returns to the overrun island, and the foodimals come into play, it begins to find its mojo somewhat.

These food creatures are the film's greatest success. Wonderfully realised and incredibly visually inventive, the animators have really let their imaginations run riot. While much of the film feels like a hollow cash-in, these creations- such as the Tacodile and Watermelophants- are glorious and really deserve to be in a better film. Still, the film takes a definite turn for the better once the punningly-named creatures take centre stage. It's still nowhere near as good as the original, but it stops it being a complete disaster. When the film tries to recreate its much-loved predecessor, it falls flat nearly every time. When it does it's own thing though, it shows there's some potential here.

The visuals here are on a par with the original- if not better, so it suggests that given a half-decent script the directors have a bright future. The returning voice cast acquits themselves admirably too, giving strong performances across the board. Will Forte makes a fine addition too, with his Steve Jobs meets Ghandi guru character seemingly channelling Adventure Time's Ice King. All the elements for a decent sequel are there, but this largely misses the mark- and for that, we have to blame the writing.

This is a very technically accomplished film and hardcore animation fans might get something out of it on this level-. As a sequel to Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs though, there's no getting away from the fact that this is something of a disappointment.