Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

I wouldn't be so calm with a monkey on my shoulder.

(Columbia) Starring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris. Directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord

We all want to leave our mark upon the world, but for a lot of us, that boils down to one thing – impressing our parents. After all, if they can’t see us as successful, nobody else will.

Flint Lockwood (Hader) wants nothing more than to be an inventor. He has some innovative ideas, but quite frankly they don’t turn out quite the way he intended them to. The ratbirds he breeds escape into the wild, flocking around garbage cans and dumps. His remote control television develops a mind of its own and runs away. He creates a device that allows him to communicate with Steve (Harris), his monkey but Steve’s one word responses aren’t exactly what he had in mind and Steve is much more interested in ripping the moustache of his taciturn father (Caan).

His mother believes in him and encourages him, but after she passes away, he is left to be raised by his dad, a sardine fisherman who doesn’t really understand his son. The gulf between them is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean.

In fact, that’s essentially where they live, on an island well off the coast of America in the Atlantic. Swallow Falls is a company town and that company cans sardines. When the sardine market tanks, the town is left with a closed cannery, Baby Brent (Samberg) – the company mascot now grown to oversized adulthood and tons of unsold sardines which becomes the main food source for the islanders. Needless to say, they soon tire of sardines. Flint figures that he can change his status as town laughingstock by creating a device that will change water into food and sets out to build it in his backyard treehouse lab tower.

The town’s ambitious but corpulent mayor (Campbell) determines to reverse the town’s fortunes by creating Sardine Land, a destination theme park. However, Flint’s test of his rocket-powered food conversion device destroys the theme park, much to the disgust of Earl (Mr. T), the town’s lone police officer, but more importantly to the disappointment of his father. The device disappears into the stratosphere, leaving Flint once again to be the object of scorn.

Flint finds a kindred spirit in Sam Sparks (Faris), a wannabe weathercaster who thus far has been unable to rise above her intern status. Her first real assignment – covering the opening of Sardine Land – has turned into a debacle. The two are commiserating on the pier when a strange looking cloud approaches and starts to rain….cheeseburgers.

Yes, his device actually works and it creates a sensation. Thanks to Sam’s broadcast of the story, Swallow Falls becomes the center of the world’s attention. Flint goes from goat to hero in a single storm. He is able to program the menu from his lab and soon the requests come pouring in; jellybeans and ice cream for the kids, pizza and steak for the adults. Open-roofed restaurants become all the rage. The mayor happily gorges on the food that rains from the sky; there is such a surplus that a dam has to be built to hold the leftovers.

However, it turns out that there is a glitch in the software and the more that the device is asked to create, the more unstable it becomes. The food begins to get bigger and bigger until meatballs the size of Volkswagens begins to crash down from the clouds. Thanks to the incompetent mayor, the interface in Flint’s lab is destroyed. If the device isn’t shut down soon, the town will be wiped out and it is up to Flint to do it.

This is based on a children’s book popular 20 years ago, albeit very loosely. The original’s narrative was very barebones and the ink drawings not really in line with today’s animation style. The directors, who have a background in television with credits like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Clone High USA” on their resume, have crafted a movie that has received nothing but critical plaudits.

I have to admit I’m not as on board with the movie as other critics and even Da Queen are. I can admire the script which is cleverly written, full of the pop culture references that seem to be de rigueur for modern animated features, albeit in a much more subtle manner than most of them. There is a willful zaniness that owes a good deal to the Cartoon Network as much as anything else.

And maybe I’m a bit of a curmudgeon in that regard. I’m not a big fan of the Cartoon Network; I find most of the animation to be shoddy, the humor dumb and a little bit condescending to its audience. With few exceptions, most modern animated programs directed at kids seem to talk down to them.

That said, the casting is inspired. What could be more hip than having Bruce Campbell in your voice cast, and Mr. T as the acrobatic Earl is simply perfect. Everyone else does a solid job for the most part.

There are some good laughs and I suspect that most of you will probably like this a lot more than I did. I just couldn’t connect with it the way I have with things like Up, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E and How to Train Your Dragon. That’s not a problem with the film; it’s a problem with me although I feel obliged to mention it, I can still recommend the movie to most audiences. I’m just not rating it higher because it’s the movie’s job to make that connection and it didn’t, and if it didn’t with me I’m sure that I’m not alone in that regard.

WHY RENT THIS: A well-written, clever script utilizes the pop culture references more subtly than, say, the Shrek series.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Simplistic animation not up to the sophistication of Pixar’s best work.

FAMILY VALUES: No worries – this is suitable for all audiences.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Earl has the exact opposite hairstyle than his voice actor Mr. T – instead of a T-shaped Mohawk he has a T-shaped bald spot.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: A music video by Miranda Cosgrove (with accompanying making-of featurettes) and a food fight game are built into the Special Edition DVD; the Blu-Ray also gives you an option to launch food at the screen while the movie is playing.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: Kinky Boots

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New Releases for the Week of September 18, 2009


 

Quit monkeying around!

Quit monkeying around!

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS

(Columbia) Starring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Andy Samberg, Mr. T, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris. Directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord

A young inventor who has had let’s just say mixed success with his somewhat outlandish inventions finally creates something that actually works; a device that turns rain into food. Of course, his well-intentioned invention has some unintentional consequences in this 3D adaptation of a beloved children’s book. Directors Miller and Lord previously worked on the MTV animated series “Clone High.” Their new animated feature will be available in standard, 3D and IMAX 3D versions, so check your local multiplex to see which version is playing and decide how you want to experience hamburger precipitation.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG (for brief mild language)

The Informant!

(Warner Brothers) Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey. When a high-ranking official and rising young star at agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) approaches the FBI to blow the whistle on price fixing, it seems too good to be true. As agents of the Bureau dig deeper, however, they find out that maybe it is. Based on actual events, this is the latest romp from director Steven Soderburgh.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for language)

Jennifer’s Body

(20th Century Fox) Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Brody, J.K. Simmons. Small town high school student Jennifer is all that – popular, gorgeous (and well-aware of the fact) and has the attitude to back it up. However, she goes from high school evil to actual, bowels-of-hell evil when she is possessed by demons. It is up to her best friend to protect the local boys from the insatiable appetite of her suddenly non-salad eating pal. This horror comedy is the latest from writer Diablo Cody, much acclaimed for her last movie (which couldn’t be more different) – Juno.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: R (for sexuality, bloody violence, language and brief drug use)

Love Happens

(Universal) Jennifer Anniston, Aaron Eckhart, Judy Greer, Martin Sheen. Dr. Burke Ryan has authored a self-help book advocating that patients directly confront their own pain. He comes to Seattle to teach a seminar on what he espouses, flush with success and on the cusp of a major multimedia deal. He meets a photographer/floral shop owner who has had some serious man problems, and there’s definite attraction. However, he hasn’t been able to take his own advice. It’s a case of physician; heal thyself in this romantic comedy from first-time director Brandon Camp.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for some language including sexual references)

O’Horten

(Sony Classics) Baard Owe, Espen Skjonberg, Ghita Norby, Henny Moan. Odd Horten has been a train engineer most of his adult life, but it is time to retire from the thing that defined him. He is a bit lost, but also remarkably lacking in curiosity about what is going to happen to him. He drifts from one odd situation into another in this Norwegian comedy about the upheaval caused by life-changing events.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Rating: PG-13 (for brief nudity)