Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Phil Lord and Chris Miller, 2009) Review

With The LEGO Movie still dominating most critically and commercially, it's interesting to note that the minds behind it, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, have a habit of making films that, on paper, sound stupid and should fail however they turn out inventive and strong films. Their first film to really get public attention was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs so the duo had a challenge of transferring a very short kids book with little to no plot into a feature length epic. Did it work? Let's find out.

On a small, insignificant island called Swallow Falls, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is an aspiring inventor much to his father's (James Caan) chargin. When his latest invention, the FLDSMDFR (a device that can turn water to food), gets accidentally launched into the sky, it takes water out of the atmosphere and it begins to rain food. The town mayor (Bruce Campbell) believes he can use this to turn Swallow Falls into a tourist trap so he begins to manipulate Flint into using the FLDSMDFR despite the possible chance of malfuntion. Flint must decide whether to stick with his stardom o if he should shut off the machine and stop an oncoming catastrophe.

The makers of this film took a huge risk because, while it isn't rare (at all) for people to adapt books, it is hard to adapt a book that had almost no content in it. What transpires is an wacky, energetic and creative animated film that embodies its cartooney nature. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs lives in its own world with unique animation (with strong colours and good character design that lets it shine). What really stands out is its sense of humour. You can definitely tell that this is from the same minds that created The LEGO Movie. It's that sort of style. It doesn't just pander to kids as the film does bring in some strong story elements too so it can be enjoyed by quite a wide range of people.

In addition to the humour, the main thing that sticks in my mind is the characters. Flint Lockwood is a likable and zany protagonist who Bill Hader brings to life with his versatile voice. The supporting cast also help bring the world and characters to life from a plucky Anna Faris, a stern yet sympathetic James Caan and the legends themselves, Bruce Campbell and Mr. T, all offer memorable performances. Even the score is good! That was surprising since most 'non-Disney' animated films don't but much effort into the soundtrack but that opening theme sticks in my head and sets the epic tale up perfectly.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a risk and, in my opinion, it worked out. It's not perfect since, while it can cover a wide range of audiences, that doesn't necessarily mean everyone will get it. It's not quite as 'culty' as something like Scott Pilgrim vs the World but, with creative minds behind it and a strong cast bringing the film to life, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a quirky, zany joy to watch...and then they made a sequel...a bit but necessary but okay, challenge accepted.

Full of fun animation, likable characters, quirky comedy and a strong cast. A fun film through and through/

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