by Mel Valentin
Based on the bestselling children’s book (three million copies and counting) written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is Sony Pictures Animation third feature-length film (after "Open Season" three years ago and "Surf’s Up" a year later). Packed with inventive visuals, an explosive color palette, and a surfeit of sight gags, physical comedy, and verbal humor, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is the perfect antidote to the end-of-summer blues for both families (children will absolutely adore "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs") and animation fans (who’ll be more than pleasantly surprised by "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’" endlessly imaginative visuals and set pieces).Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follows Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader as an adult), boy-genius inventor who dreams of following in the footsteps of his "rock-star"-inventor idols (e.g., Alexander Graham Bell, Nicholas Tesla, Albert Einstein), demonstrating his first invention, spray-on shoes, as part of "show-and-tell." The shoes go over well until one of Flint's classmates asks him a question he's forgotten to consider: how to remove the shoes (he can't). As he grows into an adult on the tiny island community of Swallow Falls, Flint continues tinkering, but something inevitably goes wrong. A remote-control TV set with legs runs amuck, rat-bird hybrids escape from their cage, a hair growth formula goes comically awry, and a flying car doesn’t (fly, that is). Flint’s father, Tim (James Caan), wants him to give up inventing and join him in the family business, operating a bait-and-tackle shop. Flint, however, refuses to give up his dreams, using his late mother’s words as inspiration.
"More like this, please."
Flint’s latest invention converts water into food, but to get to work, he needs to tap into an adequate energy source Oblivious to the grand opening of Sardine Land, the mayor’s (Bruce Campbell) attempt to resurrect the island’s struggling economy, Flint sets off a massive chain reaction. The machine works, enveloping the townspeople in hamburgers. Luckily for Flint, the Weather News Network has sent Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), a cute, perky intern, to cover the opening of Sardine Land. Instead, she’s the first to report the success of Flint’s invention. Looking past Sparks’ appearance, Flint sees a kindred science geek. He’s right, but as with his previous inventions, the water-to-food converter begins to malfunction.
Thematically, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs hits all the right “life lesson” notes (with zero sermonizing): respect for and encouragement of individuality, elevating science and learning, even when it leads to failures to something admirable and worth pursuing. Flint might be socially clueless, especially around Sparks, but he turns a casual, throwaway comment into a grand romantic gesture. Another thematic thread follows Flint’s strained relationship with his father, a former fisherman turned storekeeper. Unlike Swallow Falls’ lone police officer, Earl Devereaux (Mr. T), Flint’s father can’t express his love for his son.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Clone High), longtime friends (they met in college), longtime collaborators and the co-writers and co-directors here, resolve the major and minor conflicts before the end credits roll (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a family film after all), but they don’t shy away from critiquing over-consumption and the negative environmental impact associated with over-consumption. Characters ask for and get what they want, repeatedly, at “no cost,” but the waste gets literally flung into a mountain passage behind the wall of a dam (where it grows and grows). They also take on corrupt politics (at least at the local level), false father figures (the mayor again), and aging celebrities who live on long-ago accomplishments and the nostalgic audiences who indulge them.Themes and story aside, Lord and Miller know their way around a computer animation studio. Despite their relative inexperience, Lord and Miller craft one jaw-dropping image after another (both for scale and texture), but they also know their way around a virtual camera (and a 3D camera at that). Camera movements are fluidly flawless, taking us into and out of the action without the usual blurs and indistinct shapes that tend to accompany camera moves in computer animated films, especially CG films produced or converted into 3D. But every visual idea, every camera move isn’t just eye candy. It’s there to serve a story perfect for the entire family (even if you don’t have one). More like this, please.
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originally posted: 09/18/09 19:05:17