January 25, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

I ADMIT IT: I’m a Pixar snob.

For me, Pixar can do no wrong when it comes to animated films. (Well, nearly any wrong; A Bug’s Life was too “shouty” for me, and I still feel let down by Ratatouille.) So when Sony Animation Studios released Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs last year, I brushed it off with the belief of, “Whatever, faceless global conglomerate; you don’t have the heart, the Pixar touch, to make me want to see your silly little film.”

Fast forward to this month, where I decided to rent Meatballs in the interest of fairness – and made it family viewing at our home. Accompanying Dash and I were our own FilmMother and a special guest critic: Dash’s 3-year-old little brother, Jack-Jack.

The little island town of Swallow Falls has a major export (heck, it’s their only export): sardines. But when the rest of the world realizes that sardines are gross, no one buys them anymore – causing Swallow Falls to suffer its own unique recession/depression. That is, until young inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) creates a machine that turns rain water into food. As Flint becomes famously popular for his creation, he faces two foes: a doubting father (James Caan) who thinks Flint should stop before things get out of control; and a greedy, gluttonous mayor (Bruce Campbell) who wants to exploit Flint’s work for his own gain. All the while, Flint tries to score with an on-the-scene weather girl (Anna Faris) who may not be as scientifically challenged as she seems.


Going into Meatballs, I wasn’t familiar with the source material: the children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett. I consider that to be a good thing, because any familiarity with the book would have clouded (pun intended) my enjoyment of this fantastic film.

I was either smiling or laughing nearly the entire time I watched Meatballs. Its humor is inspired and rapid-fire, and the animation is both nimble and gorgeous – truly a feast for the eyes. And it’s all accompanied by a majestic musical score from veteran composer and former Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh. (Side note: I defy you to get the closing song, Miranda Cosgrove’s “Raining Sunshine,” out of your head; it’s just so damn happy.)

And just when I thought writer/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were spending too much time on laughs and not enough on character, they evolve Flint, Sam, and Flint’s father into fully fleshed out people (animatedly speaking).

A large portion of that fleshing-out comes from Meatballs’ theme of the fragile father-son relationship so many men deal with in their lives: Trying to please a father without being stuck in his old-fashioned ways, yet hoping for love and approval from him at the same time…and ultimately living up to your potential, no matter what anybody says.

Watch your back, Pixar – if Sony Animation and/or the team of Lord and Miller make another film as great as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, your spot as king of motion picture animation may have a worthy challenger to the throne.


What did Dash think?
Dash thoroughly enjoyed Meatballs. He was laughing and talking at the screen the whole time. And he has watched some or all of the film every day since then. But while Dash enjoyed Meatballs as a whole, it’s Jack-Jack who provides the pull-quotes for this review:
"It’s the food-maker maked it!” [“Food-maker” = Flint]
“The food-maker was funny.”
And for posterity’s sake, Jack-Jack even took a picture of the TV screen with his camera while we paused the film for a popcorn refill.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is rated PG for “brief mild language,” but aside from “lame,” “nerd,” and Flint muttering something like “holy crapples” when being attacked by a horde of plucked chickens,* there wasn’t anything offensive in Meatballs that would make it unsuitable to children of any age.
* I took this scene back three times and still couldn’t figure out what he said, so I doubt any child would pick up on it.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Absolutely. And if she doesn’t, make her anyway. She’ll thank you when it’s over.

Do you see what I see?

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
* Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
* Screenwriters: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
* Stars: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Andy Samberg
* MPAA Rating: PG (brief mild language)


Maria Jensen said...

Great review! I was just thinking about going and watching this movie and now i will definitely do that!

Grat blog : )


Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I agree with Maria. Great, enthusiastic review. I totally dissed this movie when it came out too but I will happily take a chance on it. I like the way you incorperate the opinion of the youngins in your piece. It's a good hook.

Gemma said...

I loved this review! And yes, the addition of Dash's and Jack-Jack's opinions was sheer brilliance. I think Ma and Pa Kettle will have to rent this one!

Sleep Deprivation Ninja said...

This film was opposite from most movies I've seen in the last several years. I had extremely low expectations based on the trailer (so much that I actually had to be dragged by my wife to see it)--but then I LMFAO during practically the whole movie. I laughed so hard, I was wiping tears off my shirt for the next hour after the film. One of my absolute favorites as a family or kid movie.

Daddy Geek Boy said...

I totally loved this movie. I think perhaps even more than my kid.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs said...

The animation and visual style of the film isn't up to the stunning beauty of the latest Pixar movies such as Ratatouille or WALL-E but it certainly exudes a similar level of ingeniousness.

Kathy B. said...

Just watched this for the first time this weekend with Granddaughters Alexis and Skylar (ages 10 & 8). We all loved it!


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