“From the first email I got asking if I wanted to play a monkey named Steve who shouts single words I was laughing.” We know him as Barney Stinson in the hit show How I Met Your Mother but Neil Patrick Harris is also one of the voices in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, the sequel to the animated film that won fans in 2009.
‘From the first email I got asking if I wanted to play a monkey named Steve who shouts single words I was laughing.’
“I thought that the original Cloudy was one of the funniest movies of that year,” Neil, who voices the character of Steve the Monkey, says.
Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn, who worked as story artists on the original hit, direct the new film. “I am a big fan of the brains of everyone involved on the creative side of these movies,” says Neil, who first broke out with the 1989 TV series Doogie Howser, M.D before starring in films as diverse as Starship Troopers, Undercover Brother and the Harold & Kumar movies.
Cloudy 2 picks up where the 2009 original left off. The film’s hero, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), is recognised as a genius at last and he’s invited to join The Live Corp Company, where the best and brightest inventors in the world create technologies for the good of mankind.
Flint had always hoped that one day he would be recognised as a great inventor but his giddy dream soon turns into a feverish nightmare when he discovers that the food machine he created in the first film (and which caused a disastrous food storm in the town of Swallow Falls), is still working and has created a veritable feast of mutant food creatures.
With the fate of humanity in his hands, Flint and his friends must embark on a dangerous mission to battle the food-animal hybrids, or ‘foodimals’, which include tacodiles, shrimpanzees, hippotatomuses, cheespiders and a whole banquet of other foody beasts.
“Boy, the stuff they have in this movie made me laugh and laugh and laugh,” Neil says. “In fact, from the first email I ever got, asking if I wanted to play a monkey named Steve who only shouts single words that come out of a voice recorder box around his neck, I was laughing.”
And Harris was laughing again on Cloudy 2 as Steve comes to the fore once more, starring alongside his master and best friend, Flint, who created the Speak and Spell “monkey thought translator”, through which Steve communicates (though his conversation is limited to single, rather random words).
“Steve is exactly the same this time around as in the first film,” co-director Cody Cameron says. “Flint projects more onto Steve than what Steve actually is. Steve is pretty much the same throughout!”
The fact that Steve remains the same will only solidify his position as a firm fans’ favourite. “It is funny what they come up with,” Neil says. “Steve is a really funny character and there will be a hilarious scene and then suddenly there will be a close-up of Steve and he will just say one word, ‘Lick’, and then suddenly we are random and funny again.”
“Steve is a great foil for the animators,” producer Kirk Bodyfelt says. “You have a scene with a lot of dialogue and Steve is in the background doing something ridiculous or eating something he wasn’t supposed to eat. He’s great.”
Neil certainly takes great pleasure in voicing the character. “I hope that people think the sequel is truly brilliant, like the first one,” he says. “I loved doing it.”
The show is entering its ninth and final season this coming September. “It’s the longest job I’ve ever had, 200-plus episodes of the show, but I think that it has managed to retain its integrity and be a little bit mysterious,” he says.
Is it time to end it? “I think that it is. No one wanted the show to go on too long and to outstay its welcome. I think we wanted one final season to wrap things up in a poetic way. We didn’t want to give the show short shrift.”
The actor concedes that doing comedy on TV and on film are two very different disciplines but he enjoys them both.
“There’s a big difference,” he says. “TV comedy for me is much broader and much more committed comedy.
“On something like the Smurfs movies you have a close up on you that’s going to be projected in 3D on a gigantic screen, so you can get a laugh by doing something much smaller.”
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 opens in cinemas on 31 January 2014.