Review: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
PLOT: On the fictional island of Swallow Falls (you can find it on the map under the “A” in Atlantic Ocean), a young man named Flint Lockwood is inventing all sorts of gadgets and goodies. Rat birds, spray-on shoes...but most of the town, including his fisherman father, think he's a giant screw up. The island's sardine-fishing livelihood has dried up after people realized that, well, sardines are gross. The residents have little to eat besides the leftover fishies. Flint invents a machine that turns water into food and when it accidentally gets launched into the atmosphere, it stars raining lunch.
REVIEW: This is the first major film from writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who called it “the most expensive student film ever devised.”. It takes a brave couple of newbies to take on Pixar, and I'm happy to report, they did a damn good job. The film has everything. Goofy, yet lovable lead? Check. Smart, plucky love interest? Check. Talking animal sidekick? Check. Quippy lines like, “We've got diem to carpe”? Check.
I love Pixar. They make me laugh, cry (please stop killing people in cartoons, oh animators of the world) and buy WALL-E sheets. Every time I check out an animated film from anyone else, it suffers in comparison. But these guys made a film that is pure fun, start to finish. Fun. Laughing-my-ass-off, it's-raining-steak-and-gumballs, I-want-Steve-the-monkey-for-my-very-own fun. There was no huge life lesson, unless you count “diving into a giant gumball hill and eating it all makes you barf”. Yeah, there is the whole be yourself thing, but that still kind of makes Flint a screw up with weird hair. I left the theater laughing, and came home all excited to describe it...and also craving jellybeans.
They managed to get an impressive voice cast here. Bill Hader plays Flint, and unlike many comedians who voice animated characters, he plays the actual role. He doesn't make Flint the cartoon version of one of his SNL characters. Anna Faris, who plays the brilliant meterologist/weather girl intern Sam Sparks manages to play it straight as well. James Caan voices Flint's dad, a walking SESAME STREET-gone-wrong sight gag. Mr. T is the voice of police officer Earl Devereaux and is made of pure awesome. I'm not kidding. I want to put the audio of his opening scene on a loop in my office. And NPH himself (Neil Patrick Harris if you're not cool enough to know that) plays Steve the monkey. I would happily take either one home as a pet. Um, not in a creepy stalker way.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS manages to be what every animated film tells us it is. “Fun for the whole family.” Kids were giggling (it's based on a children's book, if you didn't already know), adults were laughing...the film has what I believe is my favorite animated moment ever. I spent the ride over to the screening on the phone with my mom, trying to explain how to cut and paste a link from an email. In the film, Flint calls his dad and tries to explain how to email a “kill code” to his cell phone. If you have ever attempted this Herculean task, you'll be laughing so hard the popcorn will shoot out of your nose...not that this happened to me...I would never do anything so gross...
Finally, the visuals. The film is presented in 3D and for once (I'm heaving a very large sigh of relief here) a film takes full advantage of that. I am so tired of film makers telling us that they're above using 3D gags in their films. “Oh, we don't throw anything at the screen. We would never stoop so low. Sure, it's a kid's film, but who wants to see things jumping out at you...” Me! I want to see that! You're using 3D. Use it! It's not the 3D version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. It's a damn kid's movie. Allow me to speak as my inner seven-year-old girl for a second. Confetti thrown at you looks awesome in 3D. I love when the giant hot dog looks like it's going to hit me in the face (in a seven-year-old girl way, I mean). Ack, the giant rolling donut is coming to get me! Thank you Lord and Miller, for having the guts to throw things at the screen. Climbing off my soap box now.
The film is definitely worth a viewing, even if you don't have your own personal mini-me. I think there's great things to come from Lord and Miller (even if they do sound like a high-end clothing store). One caveat: eat first. After an hour and twenty-one minutes of snack food falling from the sky, you're going to be hungry.