Neil Patrick Harris is voice of Steve the Monkey in “CLOUDY 2”

“I thought that the original `Cloudy' was one of the funniest movies of that year,” begins Neil Patrick Harris, who returns as the voice of Steve the Monkey in Sony Pictures Animation's adventure comedy “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2,” the sequel to the 2009 original.

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,” adds Harris, who first broke out with the 1989 TV series “Doogie Howser, M.D” before starring in films as diverse as “Starship Troopers,” “The Smurfs” and the “Harold & Kumar” movies.

“I love Phil Lloyd and Chris Miller, who are the original `Cloudy' writers and directors, and I love the current writers and directors, Cody and Kris, who share the same sense of humor, which I hope really shines through in `Cloudy 2.'”

The sequel picks up where the 2009 original left off. The film’s hero, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), is recognized 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 recognized 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,” says Harris. “In fact, from the first e-mail 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 `Cloudy,'” smiles co-director Cody Cameron. “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’ favorite. “It is funny what they come up with,” says Harris. “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.”

According to producer Kirk Bodyfelt, extracting a movie voice-performance for a main character usually takes three or four sessions, each one running at five or six hours. “But with Neil, we got the whole movie in one session, one hour,” laughs Bodyfelt. “Later, we came up with five more Steve lines, we had Neil in for a second session – he comes in for ten minutes and he’s done.

“Steve is a great foil for the animators,” the producer continues. “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.”

Harris 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.”

For many people around the world, Harris is perhaps best known for his eight-year stint in the hit TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” in which he plays womaniser Barney Stinson. “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.

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 films like “Smurfs,” he says, he can afford to be a bit more nuanced. “In 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.”

Now playing across the Philippines, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.
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