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Cloudy with a chance of awesome, more like it.
on September 30, 2009
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Phil Lord and Chris Miller, 2009)
There are some movies where you come out of the theater talking about the camerawork and the acting, discussing plot points, picking things apart, arguing whether it was really the seventy-eighth best movie you've ever seen. And there are some movies where you exit the theater and say "Dude. That was AWESOME." Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is very much of the latter variety; no matter how silly and/or stupid the final half-hour may be (as the few critics who didn't like it have pointed out), it's still a blast.
Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader, recently of Tropic Thunder) is a bumbling inventor who comes up with things that are kind of useful ("The Hair-Unbalder!" is the movie's first big laugh), but generally stupid. He lives on a small island just off the coast, the entire economy of which is derived from the sardine industry. It collapses, we learn, when the rest of the world realizes that sardines taste horrible. Inspired, Flint turns his attention to devising a machine that can turn water into food (in order to give the islanders some respite from eating three meals a day of sardines). Meanwhile, his father (voice of James Caan) wants him to go into the family business (bait and tackle, naturally), the local cop (voice of, yes, Mr. T) has an eye and a half on Flint thanks to previous experiments, and the Mayor (voice of Bruce Campbell) has staked the island's meager savings on the construction of an amusement park, which he hopes will begin a tourism industry. A station from the mainland has sent an enthusiastic weather girl (voice of Anna Faris, recently of The House Bunny) to cover the story. Flint's machine looks promising, but needs more power than he can get at home, so he decides to take it down to the power station on the day of the unveiling. Mishaps occur, the machine ends up shooting into the atmosphere, and just as inventor and weather girl meet, cheeseburgers begin raining from the sky. Oh, yes, there will be tourism.
My favorite thing about Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is that the obvious social-consciousness implications (without which, of course, one cannot make a kids' movie these days) aren't shoved into your face (unlike such recent movies as Cars and Wall-E). Yes, they're there, but they're played with the same humor as everything else. More to the point, Lord and Miller, adapting Judi and Ron Barrett's classic childrens' book, trust their audience, young as it is. They figure the kiddies will pick up on the "overeating is bad, mmkay?" subtext, and just give it to us in sight gags (none of which feel mean-spirited). Even the "uncommunicative father" stereotype, which normally grates on me so hard, didn't really bug me here, maybe because Flint's father is usually seen and not heard; they take the stereotype and make him into an almost silent-film character for most of the film's length, conveying emotion with facial expressions (which is pretty darned hard when... oh, you'll see) and body language. They obviously put a lot of thought into this, and a lot of right thought at that. Add in the voice talent (which I've barely touched on; you can add Benjamin Bratt, Lauren Graham, Al Roker, Neil Patrick Harris, and a couple of others you'll recognize in cameos) and some really appealing animation and you've got yourself a bang-up kids' movie. I haven't seen too many of this year's offerings in that vein, so I don't know how it stacks up against, well, Up, but I liked this one very, very much. ****