Movie reviews / Three new flicks: A so-so sequel, a lot of sex, a little romance

'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,' 'Don Jon' and 'Baggage Claim'

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In addition to "Rush" and "Enough Said," new movies this week include an animated family film, a ribald romp from actor turned director-writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt and a PG-13 rated romcom.

' Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2'


2 stars = Mediocre
Ratings explained

It's the rare sequel that outshines the original, especially in the world of animation. "Toy Story 2" managed brilliantly, but not the second rounds of "Cars," "Shrek" or "Ice Age."

This sequel is no "Toy Story 2" and doesn't rise to the level of the others.

It picks up where the quirky, heartwarming 2009 movie left off. Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader) thought he had saved the world by destroying his invention capable of turning water into food and spawning spaghetti tornadoes, cheeseburger rain and a foodalanche.

The device brings him to the attention of his boyhood scientist hero, Chester V (voice of Will Forte), who runs a behemoth that's a cross between Apple and Google called Live Corp.

Chester sends Flint, his fisherman dad, pet monkey, meteorologist romantic interest and others to San Franjose, Calif., while their home of Swallow Falls ostensibly is being cleaned up. But when they sneak back, they discover the island is as overgrown as the one in "Jurassic Park" and the invention survived and is creating "foodimals" or food animal hybrids such as tacodiles, shrimpanzees and watermelophants.

Flint faces some key decisions about the Flint Lockwood Diatomic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator or FLDSMDFR, as well as his friends, the fate of the foodimals and his hero, Chester.

"Cloudy" explodes with bright colors, clever combos of foodimals, sight gags, a pair of primate pals and even a message about bullies becoming friends.

But some of the action moves so quickly you can barely absorb the details, and the story seems labored at times and more unfocused than the first, based on the Judi and Ron Barrett children's book. It's a bit like the second trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet, impossible to resist but not as satisfying as the first.

In 3-D in select theaters. Rated PG for mild rude humor.

' Don Jon'


2 1/2 stars = Average
Ratings explained

Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is, it turns out, rather demanding as a girlfriend.

But she's "a dime" -- a 10 on the 1 to 10 chick scale -- for Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). In fact, as he tells the voluptuous blonde, "You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life," and he gets around.

Jon can live with Barbara's insistence that he take a night class or refrain from cleaning his own apartment (embarrassingly girly!), but she lays down the law about one of his favorite pastimes and pleasures. Porn.

He loses himself in the parade of erotic images that flicker on his computer screen in a way that doesn't happen with a real woman. She, on the other hand, loves Hollywood romances featuring a pretty woman, a pretty man, an expensive wedding and a drive into the sunset.

Making full use of its R rating, the ribald comedy explores a cultural landscape in which sex is used to sell just about everything as well as addictions, masculinity, relationship and family expectations and what the Internet hath wrought with its carnal cafeteria.

In addition to Ms. Johansson, who works her Jersey accent as vigorously as her chewing gum, the cast includes Julianne Moore as a fellow student, Tony Danza and Glenne Headly as Jon's parents, Brie Larson as his sister, who spends most of her time wordlessly fiddling with her phone, and Rob Brown and Jeremy Luke as Jon's pals.

"Don Jon" is an assured, energetic writing-directing debut for Mr. Gordon-Levitt, a child actor who never missed a beat as he matured and worked with Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg and Rian Johnson. He brings a sly sensibility to the casting, from Mr. Danza as his profane, football-loving dad to the familiar faces in cameos.

The ending, with a character who remains somewhat elusive, feels wobbly, but "Don Jon" is about a guy in his late 20s still finding his way around life, love and that ever-tempting laptop.

R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use.

' Baggage Claim'


2 stars = Mediocre
Ratings explained

If you're a romcom virgin, then "Baggage Claim" is just the ticket. If, however, you've seen any other romantic comedies, you will suspect where this is going within minutes.

Playwright and novelist David E. Talbert wrote the 2003 book, as well as the screenplay, and he directs the movie starring Paula Patton as Baltimore-based flight attendant Montana Moore. She chafes at her mother's insistence that you're not a lady unless married by 30 and not a woman until you've had two children.

Although she doesn't want to "end up alone, living in a house full of cats, smelling like soup," she is content to be single until her younger sister gets engaged. Montana embarks on a 30-day plan to find a date or mate by the wedding, a scheme made possible by her fellow flight attendants and their connections.

The pals come straight from the romcom rule book: A gay man (Adam Brody) and a sassy, fuller-figured gal (Jill Scott). They and others alert Montana whenever a former boyfriend is scheduled to fly; that way, she can be sitting nearby or serving them drinks in first class.

And bump into them she does, from a congressional candidate and a smooth music producer to a generous international businessman. They and others are played by Taye Diggs, Trey Songz, Djimon Hounsou, Boris Kodjoe and, as Montana's childhood friend and neighbor, Derek Luke.

"Baggage Claim" is predictable, with one character's name doubling as a flashing light, and while it seems to want to strike a blow for independence, it cannot resist the urge to say yes to the dress or Tiffany blue box.

None of it is especially funny or surprising or deep although, as Montana's steamroller mother, Jenifer Lewis makes the most of a tender memory from the first of her five marriages.

The tone and material are as light as buttercream frosting and, were it not for the cast, "Baggage Claim" would seem at home during a Christmas countdown on Lifetime or Hallmark where women would appreciate the bonny beaus and suggestion that someone who looks like Ms. Patton (in real life, Mrs. Robin Thicke) might have trouble finding true love.

PG-13 for sexual content and some language.

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.


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