Sep 2009 18

cloudy-with-a-chance-of-meatballs-movie-poster“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” is based on a popular childrens book of the same name, by Judi and Ron Barrett. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have taken the source material and turned it into a completely enjoyable hour-and-a-half film for both kids and adults. At any given time, the movie seems to equally balance the humor and wit, and there is seldom a time on-screen where all members of the audience are not entertained.

The movie starts off by introducing us to the town of Chewandswallow. The town, located on an island “under the A in the Atlantic” on a map, is best known for it’s production of sardines. But once people basically find out that “sardines are gross,” they stop buying them from the town. Therefore the inhabitants of Chewandswallow are left with a huge surplus of sardines, that they are forced to eat on a daily basis.

Enter the hero and main character of the film – Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader). Flint has wanted nothing more than to become a great inventor his entire life. The walls of his bedroom are covered with posters of great inventors and inventions, amongst which there is a self-drawn poster of himself. Almost immediately we are shown a laundry list of Flint’s failed inventions: spray-on shoes, remote controlled TV (literally), and ratbirds to name a few. Yes, ratbirds – which provide many comedic moments throughout the film. Flint’s inventions, while created with the best intentions, never seem to come out quite right. But his persistence, along with the goals of impressing his father and becoming a great inventor, motivate him to create his greatest invention – a machine that turns water into food!

As Flint prepares his pièce de résistance in his secret laboratory atop his dad’s house – he programs his computer, uploads all of his codes, double and triple checks his calculations. And with the press of several buttons – takes out the power to his house. As he sneaks downstairs to reset the breaker, he has a run-in with his father (James Caan), who disapproves of his inventing and wants him to get a real job. So he orders him to help run the family bait and tackle shop. But Flint has bigger plans. On the day that the mayor of the town (Bruce Campbell) is set to unveil the key to putting Chewandswallow back on the map, Flint sneaks past the town’s police officer (Mr. T) and plugs his invention into the town’s power grid to give it the needed juice. Of course things don’t go as planned for Flint as usual, and his machine literally takes off rocketing around the town wreaking havoc. TV Weatherperson Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) is on location to report on the mayor’s unveiling, and is knocked down by Flint’s invention. But just as she starts to tell him off, a rain cloud appears overhead. But instead of rain falling from the sky, burgers start dropping left and right. And Flint Lockwood finally goes from zero to hero in the town’s eyes.

Cloudy-Chance-Meatballs-Bruce-Campbell-Andy-SambergThe voice acting in the film is one of the best cast that I have seen in an animated feature of recent years. The fact that the movie is comprised of actors that do not specialize in voice acting, rather appear primarily on television and film, does not hinder their performances what-so-ever. Bill Hader does a fantastic job as the lead role of Flint Lockwood. The vocal range that he uses when voicing the different emotions of this eccentric hero is impressively entertaining. I would say that he will have quite a few animated roles in the near future after this performance. Another great decision was to have the mayor of the town voiced by Bruce Campbell. Campbell is best known for his role in the “Evil Dead” films as Ash, and in the USA television series “Burn Notice” as of late. He perfectly pulls off the selfish mayor with a hidden agenda, that certainly has an affinity for food in this film. Viewers will find him more and more humorous as the sky rains more and more food throughout the movie. Other talents, including James Caan as Flint’s father and Anna Faris as the weather girl, are well done and equally entertaining. Andy Samberg voices “Baby Brent,” the town’s former spokesperson for their sardine production, which is OK but a little over the top. I will have to say that one of may favorites overall was Mr. T as town police officer Earl Devereaux. His energetic, over-the-top character is sure to entertain.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” is a fun movie for audiences of all ages. Kids are sure to love the comedic situations that Flint gets into throughout the film, and adults will appreciate the wittiness of the script. There really were no moments that were too smart for kids, and at the same time the movie does a great job of dropping jokes and quick details in the background for the older audience. Although adults will probably not go out of their way to see this one if they aren’t taking kids, they would certainly still be entertained if they did. The film looks good in 3D too, so I would recommend seeing it like that if you can. I think that this film is one of the most underestimated of the year, and will end up being a huge hit. Many will find it to be one of their favorite animated features of all time.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” gets an A-

Another Take From Zac:

The newest animated tale from Sony Pictures Animation is an entertaining and fun adaptation of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs that successfully appeals to all audiences but doesn’t do anything particularly special to launch itself into the upper echelon of animated works, especially this year.

Our story follows Flint Lockwood a loner scientist who has spent his whole life inventing little odds and ends to try and better his life and the worlds.  His latest project turns water into any food you can imagine and is built with the hope that it will help his little island town have a variety of food options as they are left with nothing to eat but sardines as their economy struggles after the Sardine company that gave them purpose has shut down.  When Flint unleashes the invention onto the world it shoots itself into the atmosphere and begins to cause a weather phenomenon where it rains whatever food Flint transmits to the machine.  Giving him a brief bout of popularity the situation soon becomes dire as the fate of his town becomes at stake.

The film is filled with a number of humorous bits throughout and where it really shines are the little side notes and sight gags that might go unnoticed when watching the film.  The main plot is rather simple and allows for a few set pieces and a little romance, but it is never terribly compelling and maybe a bit to over the top from time to time.  The ridiculousness of it all is part of the film’s charm though and while it is a fun fantasy to play in a couple characters are just a bit too much to handle and blown way over board in their caricature.  The police officer and the mayor stand out the most in these instances and quickly become annoying more than anything.  I also think Flint himself is a tough character to really fall for and really get behind as his life of being distanced from society and his awkwardness makes it hard for us to connect with him.  I understand this is all intentional to lend itself to the arc of the character and there are a number of funny and likable attributes to him, he just definitely won’t be remembered as one of animations great characters anytime soon.

That is not to say Bill Hader doesn’t do a fantastic job in the character, in fact he captures the awkward, weird, and insane aspects of the character perfectly, making Flint a believable character that is just hard to identify with.  Anna Faris also does a nice job as Flint’s love interest in the film and doesn’t play the usual ditz that she is fantastic at.  The ‘be yourself’ message is strong with her character and I think her story is probably the most identifiable in the picture.

The movie is also a blast to look at and really does a great job at selling us on the chaos and absurdity of food falling from the sky.  The animation and action in the picture is very well executed and the set piece with Flint and the spaghetti tornado was quite the impressive feat.  Also I must again tip my hat to the animators and filmmakers for maintaining a sense of subtlety to a number of bits a jokes that are brilliantly executed without being in your face and look at me.  I just wish they could have used a bit of this same refrain with their characters and made them a bit more real to life.  The film also moves bye with very few dull spots and drives through all the way to the end which is all one can hope for when it comes to a film, especially comedies.

In the end, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a successful adaptation and a fun little fantasy to enjoy.  Fast paced and full of a number of clever jokes there is a lot here for viewers of all ages, while still a bit skewed towards the younger crowd.  Hader does a great job in the lead as Flint but the characters are a bit to over the top to really fully embrace or not find annoying.  There is plenty of imagination and a number of good gags to keep us entertained and is a solid animated picture in a year littered with greats.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a B-



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