Friday, March 1, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Movie Review

I remember having the picture book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs read to me in first grade. In 2009, a CGI animated movie based on the children's picture book was made. It's one of the few examples I can think of where the movie is better than the book it's based on.
Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) thinks he's a genius, but none of his inventions are useful or even make sense. He has the support of his mother, but after she passes away, he's left alone with his father (James Caan) who thinks Flint should give up inventing. After the world discovers that sardines are "super gross" the demand for the small island town of Swallow Falls' primary export, canned sardines, plummets, leaving the town to subsist on nothing but the tiny fish. Flint decides to try his latest invention, a machine that can turn water into food. But something goes wrong and the machine ends up in the atmosphere. Later it starts raining food. The Shifty Mayor (Bruce Campbell) tries to use this as a way to help their community, but when Flint senses something wrong with the machine, the mayor convinces him to ignore it. However, as Flint predicted, chaos ensues. Flint enlists the help from his pet monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), weather intern Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), former sardine cannery mascot Brent (Andy Samberg), and an overzealous police officer (Mr. T) to help stop the food-weather storm destroying their town and keep it from spreading to the rest of the world.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs differs greatly from its source material. The picture book is all about grandpa's silly stories about a place where food falls from the sky. The movie has nothing to do with that other than the fact the food falls from the sky. The movie is actually well written and has a fairly complex plot for a family feature.
The characters are great. Flint is unappreciated for his efforts and is comically awkward. Sam is intelligent and talented in meteorological science, but feels she needs to hide that "nerdy" aspect of herself so she can fit the pretty, ditzy weather forecaster stereotype. Flint's Dad is a technophobic fisherman, a single father and widower who has no idea how to relate to his son. Officer Devereaux is basically a parody of Mr. T, who also provides the voice for the character. He's hyper-manly, ridiculously athletic, passionate about his job, and loves his young son dearly. Even the character's partially bald head is a reverse of Mr. T's signature Mohawk. He often delivers hilariously wacky lines like, " My chest hairs are tingling! Something's wrong." All the characters are well written, relatable, and loveable.
The animation in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is fantastic. The characters' movements are hilariously spastic and expressive, similar to an old Saturday morning cartoon. There is no subtlety anywhere in the movie when it comes to movement. The stretchy facial expressions that Flint in particular makes are hysterical and really conveys the characters' thoughts and feelings. They're easily on par with the laughable expressions used in Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strips.
Remarkable detail was put into the animation. Props like a water pitcher made of glass, have little imperfections that distort the background a little bit as you look through the pitcher, and it has dated 70's style floral design painted on it. The explosions were beautifully animated and astoundingly colorful. The movie's color palette made everything look beautiful to look at.
The dialogue is absolutely hysterical. After Flint discovers he cannot remove his spray on shoes invention, he narrates a somber, melodramatic tone, "I wanted to run away that day, but you can't run away from your own feet." Flint's dad tries to console his young son by saying, "Not every sardine was meant to swim" to which Flint responds, "I don't understand fishing metaphors!" One of my favorite line was when Flint renewed his commitment to be great and fix the problems he created. He then says, "Come on, Steve! We've got some diem to carpe!" The movie is quotable, but the delivery from the talented voice actors makes it all the funnier.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is an incredibly funny and creative movie that features gorgeous animation, fun characters, a well written script, hilarious comedy, and is genuinely fun to watch. The movie pays homage to other disaster movies like Twister, Armageddon, The Core, and The Day After Tomorrow, except with over-sized food rather than meteorological phenomena. It's a fun, slapstick family adventure comedy and viewers of any age will likely get a kick out of it. It's a little formulaic, but I can't think of another movie that features the hero dangling above a chasm of razor-sharp peanut brittle while grasping onto a red licorice rope held by his girlfriend who has a peanut allergy. It's a great movie and is worth owning a copy.

What's your favorite disaster movie? Comment below and tell me why!

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