REPOST: Movie review: ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ cooks up crazy fun

Flint and Sam are back and this time, they have foodimals with them. sums up how crazy fun ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’ is.

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I have no idea what effect foodimals will have on the ecosystem, and I do worry. But the 3-D animated movie mash-up that creates such exotic species as taco-diles, shrim-panzees, banan-ostriches and, my favorite, fla-mangoes makes for some pretty delicious family fun in “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

There are definitely fewer carbs this time around. Whether charges of insensitivity to childhood obesity issues hurled at the first film are the reason, “Cloudy 2” is overwhelmingly fruit- and veggie-centric. And honestly, anyone who can pull off a running joke about leeks that does not make you gag, and is in fact a silly delight, deserves props.

That team involves prolific voice actor Cody Cameron and animator Kris Pearn, plucked from the trenches of “Cloudy” and plopped into co-directors’ chairs for “2” — sharing nicely, I’m sure, since the sequel’s all about getting along. Further extending the weird science first popularized by Judi and Ron Barrett’s children’s book, the screenplay is by Erica Rivinoja, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.

When last we left the Atlantic island of Swallow Falls, aspiring inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) was destroying his greatest achievement, the Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator, to save the world from a devastating spaghetti and meatball storm.

“Cloudy 2” picks up with the island’s evacuation for cleanup. Its good citizens relocate to the big city of San Franjose — Silicon Valley with a few hills. It’s a place of high-tech glass towers and neutral-toned minimalism controlled by a single conglomerate, Live Corp. The company is in the business of the “betterment of mankind,” so you know right away its eccentric owner, Chester V (Will Forte), is up to no good. Ever by his side is new assistant Barb (Kristen Schaal), an orangutan outfitted with a human brain and fighting for a little r-e-s-p-e-c-t. It’s an issue.

In Flint’s camp, in case you need reminding, is Anna Faris’ TV weathercaster Sam Sparks, still swooning over Flint. Manny’s behind the camera, and Benjamin Bratt‘s behind him. James Caan is Flint’s outdoorsy dad, completely tapped into his sensitive side now and hoping to bond with his boy over manly things. In the long minute or so that separates the two films’ time frame, Andy Samberg‘s Brent has become a mogul; his Chick-N-Sushi joints are a hit. Earl (Terry Crews), Swallow Falls cop, has turned in his badge and turned foodie. And Neil Patrick Harris‘ scamp, Steve the Monkey, is more essential and up to even more mischief.

Though the movie will go into great detail, all you need to know is that Chester V’s designs on world domination involve getting his hands on Flint’s food replicating machine. You didn’t really think it was destroyed, did you?

It hasn’t merely survived, it’s gone mad — churning out mountains, and rivers, and swamps, and jungles, and deserts overrun with 39 different varieties of misbegotten new species.

The animation and 3-D effects of this hybrid world are simply stunning, and a much-needed jolt after San Franjose and Live Corp.’s uniformity. The color is scrumptious and the human characters, with their expressive Pinocchio-esque eyes, are enchanting. But it is the inventive design of the many creatures that feels so fresh. The detail is so rich, and so dense, that you wish some of the frames would freeze so you had more time for savoring.

They are an eclectic bunch of interlopers. But the best — as always — are the more organic mash-ups like those fla-mangoes, where the fruit fits the shape of the bird quite nicely. The completely zany creations, like the cheeseburger bully that scurries around on spider legs made of French fries, are more of a stretch. And that screaming, lettuce-spitting taco-dile is slightly scary.

But even if Flint can find and stop his machine, what is to be done with this bounty of new breeds?

It’s a pickle.

Because like the tribe of briny bruisers that roam the land, foodimals are sweet once you get to know them. Conflict is definitely on the menu as it should be. It’s the sides that drag things down. There are more secondary story lines than marshmallow fellows, who replicate at rabbit speed.

It’s all very murky what might happen if the machine fell into the wrong hands (those would be Chester V’s). More worrisome is the way even bigger questions are completely ignored. Like what happens when food becomes our friend — literally. What do we eat? What do they eat? No clue.

But perhaps the only question that matters is whether parents will care if the plot is undercooked as long as their little munchkins are giggling. I think we can hazard a guess on that one.

Samantha Pouls is a high school junior who lives in Gladwyne, PA. She spends her time indulging her love for films.  See similar articles here


REPOST: Stephenie Meyer looks back on a decade of ‘Twilight’

Famous vampire romance writer Stephanie Meyer tells of her 10-year journey as the creator of the best-selling Twilight series in an article for

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Stephenie Meyer first had the idea for the ‘Twilight’ saga in 2003. / GANNETT

A decade ago, it all began with a dream.

As the story goes on her official website, it was June 2, 2003, when Stephenie Meyer, then a stay-at-home mother of three, had a dream that she couldn’t shake. Writing in the evenings, three months later she had completed “Twilight.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Meyer’s four-book teen vampire romance saga has sold more than 100 million copies since the publication of the first book in 2005 and launched a hit film franchise.

Now the producer of the film version of friend Shannon Hale’s comedic novel “Austenland,” Meyer reflected on the 10-year journey “Twilight” has taken her on.

“It feels like I’m super, super old,” said Meyer, 39. “Like 10 years? Oh, my gosh, I don’t know where it went. But it’s amazing to stop and think back to my life 10 years ago and how drastically it has changed. I just wouldn’t have seen any of it coming. If you had told me back then, ‘Ten years from now you’ll be promoting a movie you produced,’ I’d have been like, ‘What drugs are you taking?’ It’s so bizarre.”

The massive success of “Twilight” led Meyer to the world of film production. Through her company Fickle Fish Films, she produced the two-part adaptation of “The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn” in 2011 and 2012, and earlier this year released the film version of her novel “The Host.”

“They’re so different,” Meyer said of the film and literature worlds. “I feel like it’s a completely different kind of artistic outlet. Writing is so solitary and so much in your own head. You have to enjoy being a hermit, which I very much do.

“Film is a chance to be creative with a big group of people and work with other people’s ideas and kind of see how people do things and learn from that. And so in a way, doing the movies that I’ve done has been a lot like taking a couple of semesters of college, it’s my own little film school. And I love learning new things, so I’ve really enjoyed that.”

There’s been some talk of a ghost story or a mermaid tale from the author in the future, but Meyer remained mum on the subject of her next written work.

“See, back in the early days I used to tell people about all of the ideas that I had floating in my head that I assumed would become books at some point,” she said. “But then, people have the expectation that it will be out in six months, and so I really don’t talk about what I’m working on anymore because it changes a lot.

“I’ll be working on something and then another idea will drag me away. I guess that’s really my problem, committing to one idea and sticking with it. And so I’m not going to talk about what I’m working on right now.”

In the years since the initial success of “Twilight,” plenty of folks have been busy making jokes at the franchise’s expense. What’s Meyer’s take on the “Twilight” parodies and mockery?

“Oh, I think it’s fun,” she said. “I think my favorite is probably the ‘South Park’ episode that was ‘Twilight’ related, that one was hysterical. As long as something makes me laugh, I’m all for it.”

Looking up to renowned writers such as Stephanie Meyer, junior high school student Samantha Pouls seeks to pursue a career in writing and filmmaking in the future. Learn about her interests on this Facebook page.