Following straight on from the end of the first film, this film is the story of what happens next. The LIVE corporation take over the island, offering to clear it up after the disastrous food-weather. But there’s more they also want to offer Flint a job! Skipping on 6 months, we find Flint disillusioned as he fails to join the inventing elite at the firm but an opportunity to prove himself presents itself. Only problem is, he needs to go back to Swallow Falls and tackle the food-monsters of his own creation.
Bill Hader (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad)
Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Movie 43)
James Caan (Misery, Elf)
Will Forte (The Watch, MacGruber)
Directed by: Cody Cameron (Shrek, Madagascar), Kris Pearn (Surf’s Up, Open Season)
Written By: Jonathan M.Goldstein (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Horrible Bosses), John Francis Daley (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Horrible Bosses)
Fans of the first film aren’t going to be disappointed – all your favourite characters are back, and there’s some new ones, including a talking ape called Barb. There’s a lot of subtle gags and the visuals are a treat, especially when they first take in the new food-monster landscape. There’s almost too much colour for your eyes to take.
The plot is pretty simple and you can see how the crisis point is going to pan out. .. and how it’ll be resolved, but there are some nods to how signposted these kind of films are (see the “utterly irreplaceable USB” which is clearly going to end up in the stomach of a baby strawberry). Mainly, it’s a whole heap of madcap fun, with treks through the syrup Lake and being attacked by giant cheeseburgers all part of the job.
The food-monsters are all ace too. If you’re anything like me you’ll spend half the film trying to work out what all the pun names are (e.g. flamangoes, hippotatos) You feel like they probably have all been carefully designed to be perfect food/animal fusions but the film makers never hit you over the head with just how clever they are. It’s nice to see some subtlety in a kids’ film. Watch out for the scenes with the holograms (LIVE boss Chester has the ability to replicate himself in hologram form) -there’s lots going on in the background that you don’t necessarily see on first viewing. The LIVE offices are pretty funny too, as a kind of obvious dig at uber-trendy tech firms. If you’ve seen The Internship you’ll recognize the world of extreme caffeination and “inspiration pods”. Pity Flint doesn’t spend very long there before venturing out.
So, what else was good? The relationship between Flint and his father is explored some more, and they finally go fishing together (in the meantime there’s a touching scene of Flint’s Dad bonding with some pickles). It’s a pity that Flint and Sam’s relationship doesn’t get much attention and it doesn’t move on much from the first film. Anna Faris hits the right notes of intelligence mixed with wide-eyed naivety and her character complements Flint well… she just doesn’t get much to do, which is the fate of many of the Swallows Falls characters. It would have been great to see a real heroic moment from Earl, for example. But the whole thing was short and there wasn’t too much time for character development.
The other slight disappointment was Chester’s grand plan. It seemed a little bit of a lame reason for carrying out such a convoluted plot. But I liked Chester himself, veering from guru-like “namaste”ing to channeling Mr Burns of “The Simpsons” and ably acted by “Saturday Night Live”’s Will Forte. The whole cast work well together, and it’s a delight to hear Kristen Schaal’s voice, although I can’t be the only one that thinks Neil Patrick “Barney” Harris is a bit wasted in the role of Steve the monkey.
There’s also some vague vegetarian agenda going on (not eating food with legs) which kinda undermines itself but making all the fruit and veg cute and cuddly as well. There is a LOT of cute in this film – even the Cheeseburger-Spider ends up with tiny babies. If you struggle with cuteness, you’ll struggle with this (though you might laugh heartily at an invention near the start – a car that “runs on cute”, with a fluffy kitten being shoved into a petrol tank). There’s quite a “Jurassic Park” vibe to the whole thing, but unlike that film, the take-home is that we can all live together if we try. Stick around for the end credits if you want to see how it all pans out for the new world…and there’s a snippet of monkey love a few minutes in too. The end credits also featured my husband’s favourite part – a horror film, featuring egg-frying and fruit-blending. It was called “Brunch”.
So, fun for the kids…a few sniggers for the adults. Definitely worth a trip out with the family on a cold autumn weekend. If you have sensitive kids, here’s the standard disclaimer – there’s a bit of peril but it’ll all work out fine…
Watch if: You like brightly coloured flights of fancy.
Don’t watch if: You can’t stand cute
Overall rating: 7/10