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Cloudy with no chance of charm

”’REVIEW: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (G)

2.5 stars”’

The popular children’s picture book by Judi and Ron Barrett was a crazy, colorful surprise hit in 2009.

In it, the brilliant young inventor Flint Lockwood (voice: Bill Hader) constructed a machine that turned water into food, creating delicious but devastating weather.

There were spaghetti twisters, jelly clouds and meatball showers, all in bold Technicolor and 3D. It looked so delicious you wanted to lick the screen.

For this inevitable but welcome sequel, new directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn couldn’t think of a more imaginative title than the obligatory “2.”

And that’s pretty telling of this cheerful, snappy but largely uninspired sequel, which seems to lack the sizzle and pop of the charming, winning original. Not that there aren’t any memorable moments.

This time, Flint (Hader) lands a coveted inventor job for Chester V (Will Forte), a Steve Jobs-style guru who runs a fancy Google-like technology company.

But for young Flint, who is still a child (which is deliberately ignored in the film), working from nine to five is hard work.

When Flint learns that his old invention has caused his island city to be overrun by animal-food hybrids, he teams up with his old friends Sparks (Anna Faris), Brent (Andy Samberg), Manny (Benjamin Bratt) and his father (James Caan) to stop the outbreak.

Despite the slow first part, “Meatballs 2” quickly gets going when Flint and Co. return to the island and come across crazy new animal-food combinations like flamangos, shrimpanzees and susheeps.

This, of course, sets the tone for a McDonald’s meets Jurassic Park style plot, where the kids inevitably find themselves in danger amidst marauding Spider-Burgers and snapping Taco Diles.

The shock moments come as quickly as the gags, such as the leak in their boat (cut to a real leek in a boat).

It’s another light, colorful, gastronomic delight, no doubt featuring even more vibrantly animated food creatures from the minds of many young, creative minds, and all geared toward the toy lines sure to come.

But story-wise, Meatballs 2 is as uninspiring as the “2” in the title. Chester gives Flint a “BS USB” to plug into his water-to-food device and obviously has nefarious intentions.

But how many kids will understand the acronym “BS”? They hopefully won’t understand it, nor the plot jumps and references to Google, Apple, and Steve Jobs.

Meatballs 2 is fun, but it lacks the freshness, spontaneity and craziness of the original. Without wanting to be too cynical, a more appropriate title might be “Reheated Meatballs With No Chance of a Part 3.”