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Cloudy 2 adds hilarity to tasty formula
Animated sequel borrows Lost World theme in family knee-slapper
Characters, from left, Earl, voiced by Terry Crews, Flint, voiced by Bill Hader, and Sam, voiced by Anna Faris appear in a scene from "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."

‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2’

Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Kristen Schaal

Rated: PG, for mild rude humor

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Bottom line: Another great family movie

Moviegoers have plenty of reasons to be skeptical of sequels these days.

Hollywood is releasing far too many of them, and they are almost always inferior to the originals, often to the point of soiling our memory of the predecessor.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” is the exception to that rule. It is the rare sequel that almost equals its predecessor. In fact, the only reason this sequel doesn’t rate higher than the first movie is in originality.

The first “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” addressed the predictable themes of feeling different and father-son relationships, but the story idea was something we hadn’t really seen before.

The sequel addresses the equally predictable but slightly less worn-out theme of having to choose between friends and personal ambition.

The story, meanwhile, follows a formula at least as old as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel “The Lost World” and the 1925 movie adaptation of it. That movie has inspired dozens of copycats over the years, most notably “Jurassic Park,” a movie to which “Cloudy 2” owes quite a debt.

The sequel picks up immediately where the first “Cloudy” left off.

Flint (Bill Hader) has saved Swallow Falls from his own food-making machine, with the help of his girlfriend Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), his dad (James Caan), his former rival Brent (Andy Samberg), jack-of-all-trades Manny (Benjamin Bratt) and police officer Earl Devereaux (Terry Crews, who replaces Mr. T).

Swallow Falls is now covered in leftovers, though, so Flint and the gang move to the mainland while the island is being cleaned up.

Flint accepts an offer to work for his idol, Chester V (Will Forte), at the technology innovation company LiveCorp. It’s a dream come true for Flint.

But Chester soon asks Flint to go back to Swallow Falls, because his food machine has begun creating food animals, or “foodimals,” that have overrun the entire island. The gang, of course, goes with him.

So the small group of characters goes to the remote island to contain the exotic beasts running wild, and end up fighting for survival. If they don’t succeed, the foodimals might escape the island and endanger the rest of the world.

The only twist “Cloudy 2” offers on that tried-and-true lost world story is that the menacing wild animals are the hybrid foodimals created by Flint’s machine.

But the writers and designers let their imaginations run wild in creating the foodimals, and the results are both visually stunning and hilarious.

When the group first arrives on the island, a wondrous sequence introduces us to many of the strange foodimals, and from there, the movie riffs on every food-related pun imaginable.

It turns out there are many such food puns, and they are funnier than you might expect. At least it’s funny how they are used in this movie.

The imaginative production design and stellar animation make up for the predictable story, but like the original movie, the real draw here is the humor. Though the directors and writers are different from the first movie, the filmmakers create the same joke-per-second pace.

The first “Cloudy” is one of the funniest family movies released in years, and this sequel might be even funnier. That’s saying quite a bit, but the sight gags are constant and witty, and at the press screening, numerous scenes reduced some jaded reviewers (including me) to giggling children.

It’s debatable whether parents should shell out the 3-D premium, but there is no question about whether I recommend the movie.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” is the best time families are going to have at the movies this year.

Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on