A second helping of colorful fun is served up in the cheerful animated sequel "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" (Columbia).
Loosely based, like its 2009 predecessor, on a book by Judi and Ron Barrett, directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn's comedy elevates friendship and teamwork over egotism, and re-echoes a familiar -- but nonetheless valuable -- message about environmental responsibility. Some parents, however, will not appreciate the predictable appearance of a bit of potty humor, or the inclusion in the dialogue of a duo of slightly coarse exclamations rhyming with granola.
Set precisely one minute after the action of the original came to an end, this follow-up kicks off with some bad news for our returning hero, nerdy but endearing Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader).
Flint, the young inventor of the machine that caused so much mayhem the last time out -- a device capable of turning water into food -- learns that the mechanism, which he thought had been disabled, has, in fact, continued to function and is now producing animals made out of menu items. This information comes to him courtesy of Chester V (voice of Will Forte), the famed scientist and corporate guru (a la Steve Jobs) Flint has long idolized.
Since the hybrid creatures his brainchild is manufacturing are multiplying rapidly, and have the potential to overrun the world, Flint must return to his island-set hometown, Swallow Falls -- where he abandoned the gizmo -- and try to shut it down for good. He's joined on this quest by his protective dad Tim (voice of James Caan) as well as by his best friend -- and potential love interest -- TV meteorologist Sam Sparks (voice of Anna Faris).
Flint gets additional backup from a team of other characters familiar to viewers of the first movie: sprightly simian Steve the Monkey (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), good-hearted doofus Brent (voice of Andy Samberg), muscle-bound police officer Earl Devereaux (voice of Terry Crews) and Sam's imperturbable cameraman Manny (voiced by Benjamin Bratt).
Early on, we discover -- though Flint does not -- that Chester has a hidden agenda. To fulfill it, he consistently tries to sow discord between Flint and his pals, especially Sam, by exhorting Flint to be a solitary hero.
If Chester isn't what he initially appears to be, neither, it turns out, are the so-called "foodimals" the gang encounters along the way.
Some, like the cheespiders (giant cheeseburgers with French-fry legs) and tacodiles (towering dinosaurs composed of taco shells and fillings), may seem ferocious at first blush. But others, like a plucky little strawberry Sam christens Barry and a host of hug-hungry marshmallows, are quite cuddly -- so much so that Sam begins to have second thoughts about Flint's mission to interfere with their creation.
Aside from the few ill-chosen ingredients mentioned above, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" makes a tasty, if not especially substantial, cinematic meal for the whole family.
The film contains a few bathroom-based jokes and a couple of very mild vulgarities. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.