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Second helping of ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ is great family fun

In Another Film by a Lot of People, as it says in the opening credits, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” picks up the wonderful inventiveness and the wonderful inventions of the first film and takes them a step farther.

That’s easy to do, because this time the food has legs.

Even though the movie has two directors and seven (!) credited screenwriters – including the directors of the first film and the authors of the book on which it was based – this isn’t a case of “too many cooks.” They have mixed up a yummy concoction, spicy and sweet, filling without feeling bloated.

Young inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) returns, along with his father, Tim (James Caan); favorite fellow scientist, meteorologist Sam Sparks (Anna Faris); and his lab assistant, Steve the Monkey (ridiculously voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). With Flint’s most famous invention, the FLDSMDFR, now destroyed, their plans are to focus on more benign experiments that will only bring good things to the world.

Unknown to almost everyone, it is not that easy to keep a FLDSMDFR down. Flint Lockwood’s Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator managed to reboot itself, with the twist that it now expels “foodimals” instead of mere monster-sized menu items.

Into the picture drops Chester V, host of the television science show that inspired young Flint in the first place.

“There is no such thing as small science,” Chester says, “just small scientists!,” and a roomful of kids in lab coats cheers.

Now Chester represents Big Science. As investor of the Food Bar power bar, he has built a huge corporation, Live Corp., in Sanfranjose, Calif., staffed by techno-creative types who dream of becoming one of Chester’s top “think-quanauts.”

“Meatballs” is such a treat because they never oversell it. Make your own “genius bar” comparisons if you like. Enjoy the nods to “Jurassic Park,” “Willy Wonka” and “Up,” and see if you catch the little tribute to “Enemy From Space,” from 1957.

The filmmakers are, however, keenly aware that it is 2013. There are caffeine stations every 10 feet in the giant Live lightbulb-shaped headquarters. When Flint embarrasses himself, his co-workers are quick to capture it on camera phone.

And then, Flint is tricked into a mission that brings him back home, where his small island has become a haven for the foodimals. Watermelonphants. Shrimpanzees. Flamangoes. Susheep. Honestly, it would make a great game, coming up with these hybrids. Told by Chester that the foodimals are dangerous and trying to escape the island, Flint tracks down his FLDSMDFR to destroy it.

Most of the time, the audience knows who is really rotten here, and the danger never rises much above the stinky cheese level. Even the “gross humor” is pretty mild, as when Steve signs a contract that has been written in purple ink and Sam asks, “Where did he get the brown crayon?”

Beautiful to look at, especially in 3-D, and written in a way that is both smart and kind, this second serving of “Meatballs” is simply delicious.