Thursday, September 24, 2009

Movie Review: Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Based on the children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs gleefully takes the simple idea of food raining from the sky to ridiculous, over-the-top proportions. What could've been a flashy but uninteresting movie is instead filled with humor, heart, and action. An amazing voice cast, wonderful animation, and a nice 3D presentation all help make this movie a lot of fun.

The story revolves around Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), an inventor whose creations always seem to wreak havoc in his hometown of Swallow Falls. The town, housed on a small island “under the 'A' in the Atlantic” Ocean, has fallen on hard times. The town's sardine canning plant has closed down and now the residents live only on the leftover sardines.

Hoping to save the town, Flint invents a machine that turns water into food. In an attempt to get the machine working, he launches it into the stratosphere. This destroys the theme park the town banked on to draw tourists. Suddenly, cheeseburgers rain from the sky and everything changes. No one has to eat sardines any longer and the town has something to put it on the map. However, when the machine starts to get overworked, even stranger things start to happen.

When a movie features the credit “A Film By A Lot of People,” you know that it doesn't take itself seriously. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs has a hip, fresh feel without seeming forced or edgy. There are a lot of great gags throughout the film, including many background gags that callback to things seen earlier in the movie. The movie also pokes fun at Jerry Bruckheimer-esque blockbusters, especially in its action scenes.

The proceedings are also helped by an all-star cast of supporting characters. Anna Faris voices the female lead, Sam Sparks. She is an intern at Weather News Network who gets her big chance covering the food weather of Swallow Falls. There is more to Sam than meets the eye as she and Flint have more in common than you'd expect.

James Caan voices Flint's father Tim, a gruff widower who doesn't really know how to communicate with his son. Mr. T voices the energetic and ultra-athletic cop Earl and Bill Hader's SNL castmate Andy Samberg voices Brent, the town's local celebrity. Other voices include Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, Bruce Campbell, Will Forte, Lauren Graham, and Benjamin Bratt, who is hilarious (and unrecognizable) in his small role.

The animation in this film is top-notch. The movie has a cartoony style that fits the material. The animators do a great job with everything thrown at them whether it's a tornado made of spaghetti or a flying car evading slices of pizza. The digital 3D presentation is very nice as well. The whole “objects flying out the screen” cliché is thankfully not overused. The 3D isn't a must but it certainly makes the movie a little more fun to watch.

First-time feature directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (best known for the animated series Clone High) have crafted a really fun and delightful film in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. They packed a lot into the movie's short running time but it all works. This is another winner for Sony Pictures Animation after the supremely underrated Surf's Up. More movies like this and they'll provide some real competition for the Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks, and Blue Sky trifecta.

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