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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.77%
Worth A Look57.69%
Average: 7.69%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 3.85%

3 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
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by Peter Sobczynski

4 stars

The day I saw “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” happened to be the very same day that Oprah Winfrey was tying up several block of one of Chicago’s busiest roads in order to stage a so-called “block party” that turned out to be a epic act of self-aggrandization featuring more blatant commercial plugs than a James Bond movie and a collection of musical guests that seemed to have been booked by your mother’s iPod. Of course, one doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the other except for the fact that in order to get to the one, I had to fight my way through the crowds and tied-up streets in order to get to the other and by the time I finally arrived, I must admit that I was not in anything resembling a good mood and I certainly wasn’t in the mood to sit through a wacky animated film for kids, especially one that required me to don a pair of those increasing ubiquitous and increasingly irritating 3-D glasses in order to get the full effect. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have bothered to mention any of these background details on the basis that they are of no real value or interest to any of you and are a symbol of lazy writing. However, I wanted to mention all that in advance in order to make the point that “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is such a cheerfully silly and entertaining film that it not only reversed my admittedly surly mood in a matter of minutes but it even caused me to forget that I was going to have to battle those crowds once again (this time with the added attraction of rush-hour traffic) a couple of hours later.

Loosely based on the beloved 1978 children’s book by Judi & Ron Barrett (meaning that it uses the title, the basic gimmick and little else), the story is set in the remote island town of Swallow Falls, a burg that has recently been devastated by the loss of the sardine cannery that was once the centerpiece of the local economy. With the populace growing increasingly morose (not to mention sick of all the sardines they are now forced to consume in order to survive), ambitious inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) sets to work on his latest project--a machine that will transform water into food. Unfortunately, the well-meaning Flint’s ambitions have a tendency to outreach his grasp and not only does the machine not work during his big test, it winds up destroying the sardine-inspired amusement park that the suspiciously Blagojevich-esque mayor (Bruce Campbell) has sunk the town’s remaining funds into (presumably figuring that if it worked for Flint, Michigan, it would work for them) before launching itself into the sky. As a result, everyone in town hates Flint--even visiting weathergirl-with-a-brain Sam Sparks (Anna Faris)--but things quickly change when it turns out that his machine works after all and cheeseburgers begin raining down from the sky. Flint becomes the toast of the town (pun intended) by providing the people with all the food they can eat (and then some) but they overindulge so much that they begin to tax the integrity of both their belts and the machine. Eventually, the machine goes haywire and begins assaulting the town with giant, mutated food items and Flint and Sam try to save the day and the world while everyone else tries to escape the carnage by sailing away on huge sandwiches.

Although the film has its relatively serious points to make--one of the subplots involves Flint trying to connect with his technophobe father (James Caan) and it pushes the message to kids about the importance of being true to yourself--but for the most part, the central purpose of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is to make viewers chuckle and guffaw by any means necessary. Obviously, most of the film’s biggest jokes are the food-related sight gags--some coming directly from the book (such as the sight of the schoolhouse being pancaked by, of all things, a giant pancake) and some from the fervent imaginations of co-writers/co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (such as an attack by giant roasted chickens that almost plays like a monster-movie version of one of the most infamous scenes in David Lynch’s “Eraserhead”)--but if the film had consisted of nothing but moments like that, it probably would have satisfied little kids eager to witness the sight someone playing with their food on an epic scale but it might have run the risk of growing stale after a while. Luckily, Lord and Miller liven things up by going for laughs wherever they might possibly hope to find them. For example, older viewers will probably appreciate the way that the film cleverly skewers all the conventions of the disaster movie genre--at one point, a newscaster reporting on the worldwide chaos caused by the food storms remarks on how strange it is that the storms only seem to be hitting world-famous landmarks without rhyme or reason. The characters have been perfectly cast as well with a collection of top-notch talents who are able to squeeze extra laughs out of the material just from the way that they phrase their lines. There are also a large number of weirdo jokes that come out of nowhere and pretty much blindside you both by being hilarious and by the fact that someone actually thought up such craziness in the first place. (Five words: Kitten singing “Fight the Power.”) Hell, the movie even has enough wit to include an inside joke about the chief deficiency of the whole 3-D process--the fact that the glasses significantly reduce the brightness of the picture--by invoking the conceit that the entire town is literally gray with gloom as the result of their problems. (That said, you are probably still better off catching it in its 2-D incarnation--the 3-D effects don’t add much to the process and the 2-D version will presumably allow such sights as a pasta tornado to come through in all their gaudy glory.)

Okay, so “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” may not be a landmark of the animation genre along the lines of such recent films as “Up” and “Ponyo.” (Of course, there are few recent movies of any kind that deserve to be compared to those instant classics.) On the other hand, it is infinitely more entertaining and inspired than such lazy programmers as “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” “Ice Age 3” and the nearly indefensible “G-Force.” Like I said before, this is a film that has nothing more on its mind than making viewers laugh for 90 minutes before sending them back out into the streets (Oprah-clogged or not) sporting goofy grins on their faces and as it amply demonstrates, sometimes that is the only thing that we really need from a movie in the long run after all.

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originally posted: 09/18/09 14:00:00
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User Comments

8/09/15 Jake Great film with a nice story, animation, and charcters 4 stars
4/07/10 brian Absurd. Not believable. Goofy and over the top. Let's watch it again. 5 stars
3/03/10 Stanley Thai If there's one bad thing I have to say about the movie, it isn't as good as Pixar's films. 4 stars
2/06/10 Ruby P. The animation was really good and I even enjoyed the soundtrack. Funny and heartwarming! 3 stars
2/02/10 Dr.Lao Stupid plot, crummy animation and lets not even discuss the "humor" a total failure 1 stars
1/12/10 Charles Tatum Sadly, funnier than most of the 2009 live action comedy releases 5 stars
9/22/09 However, many people see this as only a temporary solution, as the surface-based facilities 3 stars
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  18-Sep-2009 (PG)
  DVD: 05-Jan-2010


  DVD: 05-Jan-2010

Directed by
  Chris Miller
  Phil Lord

Written by
  Chris Miller
  Phil Lord

  Bill Hader
  Anna Faris
  James Caan
  Bruce Campbell
  Andy Samberg
  Mr. T
  Tracy Morgan

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