January 31, 2014 in Features

Second serving of ‘Meatballs’ lacks flavor

Rick Bentley Mcclatchy-Tribune

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2” pales in comparison to the original.
(Full-size photo)

This week’s new DVDs look at talking food, race car drivers, longtime friends and a disguised Johnny Knoxville.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” C-plus: Inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) must save the world again in this animated sequel.

The original “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” was a sweet treat of an adaptation of the 1982 book by Judi and Ron Barrett. From the visual smorgasbord – especially Lockwood’s secret laboratory where such electronic gimmicks of the 1980s “Simon” game and an Atari joystick create the “Tron” look – to the food jokes, the movie worked for all ages. The sequel comes across like eating leftovers.

Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn give the film the frantic pace and bright colors needed to keep the attention of kids. Adults who are looking for more will be left cold.

“Rush,” B-minus: Director Ron Howard’s film – the story of one of the greatest rivalries in Formula 1 racing – is as sleek and streamlined in design as a Ferrari. And it’s driven to its conclusion by high-octane performances supplied by Chris Hemsworth as the life-loving English racer James Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as the fiercely focused Austrian driver Niki Lauda.

The problem is that the lack of an emotional center leaves “Rush” feeling like it is stuck in second gear.

“Last Vegas,” C-minus: The film’s proof that some things that happen in Las Vegas should stay in Las Vegas. Even the stellar cast of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline can’t save this painfully predictable comedy from coming across like watching a landlocked version of “The Love Boat.”

Screenwriter Dan Fogelman – who has already shown a monumental lack of originality as executive producer and writer of the laughless ABC comedy “Neighbors” – has assembled a series of stories for the four men that play out so obviously, the finale can be predicted before the group checks into their hotel. It would have been nice to have had one plot element that hasn’t been beaten to death in countless past projects.

“Bad Grandpa,” D-minus: Johnny Knoxville disguises himself as a senior citizen to pull pranks.

“Bad” is really not the right adjective to describe “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” Words such as “uninspired,” “juvenile,” “stupid,” “slow,” “a waste of time” and “lame” are better ways to express this total failure from the twisted mind of Knoxville. But what may surprise you is that this film fails not because of the low-brow humor. It’s the abysmal filmmaking.

Also new on DVD:

“Metallica: Through the Never”: A routine task for a Metallica roadie becomes a surreal odyssey.

“Vera, Set 3”: Brenda Blethyn stars in the series based on the novels by Ann Cleeves.

“The Fifth Estate”: Story goes from the early days of Wikileaks to its end after a series of information leaks. Benedict Cumberbatch stars.

“The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross”: Henry Louis Gates Jr. recounts the full trajectory of African-American history.

“Dracula”: Tale of horror from Dario Argento.

“The April Fools”: Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve star.

“Lincoln@Gettysburg”: Look at a major turning point in American history.

“Bonnie & Clyde”: Cable offering that looks at the famous bank robbers.

“The Agatha Christie Hour: Complete Collection”: Ten tales of intrigue and romance from the mystery writer.

“Penguins – Spy in the Huddle”: Look at Emperor and Humboldts penguins.

“Collison”: After a deadly accident in the Sahara, newlyweds must survive the journey back to civilization.

“Treme: The Complete Fourth Season”: New Orleanians continue to rebuild in the aftermath Katrina.

“Agatha Christie’s The Queen of Crime Collection”: Three feature-length Agatha Christie mysteries.

“Downton Abbey Season 4”: Episodes include return of Shirley MacLaine and new guest star Paul Giamatti.

“Nicholas Sparks Limited Edition DVD Collection”: Seven films based on the author’s novels.

“The Venture Bros. Season Five”: Animated series starring the Venture family.

“The War Between Men and Women”: Jack Lemmon comedy based on the writings of James Thurber.

“The State of Arizona”: A look at Arizona’s headline-grabbing struggle with illegal immigration.

“Stonados”: Stones fall from the sky during bad weather.

“Snow Babies”: Wildlife footage provides look at the first year of life of a special group of baby animals.

“Danny Phantom: The Complete Series”: Find out how an average kid became part ghost and all ghost hunter.

“The Princess Twins of Legendale”: Two brave sisters come together to reunite two worlds separated by an evil enchantment.

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