Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Cloudy WIth a Chance of Meatballs


Review by Patrick Hodges

Sometimes you just have to go with it.

There are movies that are defined by how grounded in reality they are.  So naturally, there are plenty at the other end of the spectrum, where the premise and/or plot is just so blatantly ridiculous, you just have to swallow your disbelief and go with it.  Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is definitely such a movie.

And it’s a good thing this is a cartoon, too, because there is no way this would have worked as a live-action film.  To do so would have been sheer folly, and it would have had as unhappy a reaction as Robert Rodriguez’s recent flop, Shorts.  But as an animated film, it not only works, it excels.  There are no limits to the incredulity of it all, and to bring it to life in glorious 3-D makes it even better.

On the tiny island of Swallow Falls, times are tough.  The island’s main source of revenue – sardines – has dried up, and the population have naught too eat but the smelly fish.  So when an enterprising young inventor named Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) a machine that turns water into food – literally, any kind of food you can think of – and launches it into the stratosphere, it creates a veritable food storm.  I mean, hamburgers falling from the sky?  How cool is that?

Having atoned for all his past failures in one fell swoop, the young Flint is seen as a savior. But apart from all the wackiness and hoopla is actually quite an endearing story, as Flint attempts to win the heart of a visiting cable weather-channel reporter (Anna Faris) while trying simultaneously to bridge the gap that has existed between himself and his old-school father (James Caan) since his mother died.

Look, I won’t lie:  this movie is primarily for kids.  But there is plenty for adults to enjoy too, starting with the absolutely incredible animation.  Sony Pictures Animation, who had underwhelmed in the past with Monster House and Open Season, are starting to look like they are just one or two big hits away from being able to take on the big boys like DreamWorks and Pixar.  They’re not there yet, but Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is definitely a step in the right direction.

Sweet, cute, funny as hell, and marvelous to look at.  Yes, of course, it’s zany, it’s silly, it’s absolutely ridiculous.  But that’s the beauty of it:  it never hides that fact from you.  In fact, it delights in it.  So just go with it.  You’ll like it.

4 / 5 stars

Review by Don Hill

On the tiny island of Swallow Falls in the Atlantic, a city of sardine fishermen live happily for years until people realize “sardines are gross”.  Once this happens they can no longer export the sardines and are forced to live on only sardines for their food.  The town grows sad.  Enter the classic “mad scientist”, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a budding inventor who wants to rectify the problem. 

The townspeople don’t care much for Flint because of his past disasters (including the hilariously dreadful “ratbirds”), but that all changes when his latest creation, a machine that transforms water into food, is launched into the atmosphere.  Hamburgers rain from the sky, and Flint is proclaimed a hero by the town’s gluttonous mayor (the ever fantastic Bruce Campbell).  Reveling in his newfound fame, Flint hope his new status will bring him closer to a visiting cable-weather-channel correspondent (Anna Faris).

The movie is based on a bestselling children's book, which I had never heard of until the movie.  It was published in 1978 and sat around in libraries and book stores until the animation could catch up with the concept.  And Sony Pictures did a great job with the technology; they found the right mix of standard clean animation and 3D surprises, and the 3D facet of the film never took over completely, which often happens.  The look and feel of the film is great.

On the other side of the lens, the writing is crisp and the jokes are there for the kids and the adults alike.  The voice talents are solid as well.  Some of the other minor or not quite major characters include Neil Patrick Harris, Andy Samberg, James Caan, Bobb'e J. Thompson (the foul mouthed young boy in Role Models), and Mr. T.  I personally think NPH should get an Oscar for his portrayal of Steve the Monkey if only for the scene with the gummy bears.  (Just kidding, kind of.)

Overall, a great movie for the family as the kids will love it and most of the adults will get a kick out of it as well.  It is truly a great family movie that doesn't rely on fart jokes or over-used humor to carry it along.  I definitely recommend seeing it in 3D to get the full effect but the writing will ensure that the movie delivers the goods in any format. 

4 / 5 stars

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