Friday, September 20, 2013

Movie Review: "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" (2009)

I’ve gone on record saying that animation has become one of the most powerful forms in cinema in the last few years. That’s a statement which I still stand by.

While some directors and studios seem to focus the bulk of their attention on making money at the box office and making what’s popular with modern audiences, animated movies offer up a distinct variety change from the norm. I attribute this more to the fact that, in animation, there is much more freedom and creative possibilities.

In a live action film, you still have to work within the normal confines of reality, physics, time and space. In animation, the filmmakers are in control of every last detail. You can change how certain humans and characters look, the way the lighting and shadows look across a landscape, even bend the very nature of the universe just to suit your needs. To do the things that you could never do in any other visual medium.

In an animated film, the entire world is the filmmakers’ canvas. 

There are also many different types of animation out there. From the optimistic yet heartfelt hand-drawn Disney animated look, like “Aladdin” and “Beauty And The Beast,” to the grittier yet breathtaking films of Hayao Miyazaki, including “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke.” To even the more recent 3-D animated films of many studios, such as Pixars’ “Toy Story” or Dreamworks’ “Shrek.”

A recent 3-D animated movie that caught my attention was “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs,” based off of a children’s book of the same name. I’ll admit that I hesitated to watch this for some time. Not because I thought it looked bad, but because I had never heard of the book before. Plus, much like “Despicable Me,” I could basically tell what was going to happen just by watching the trailer, so I felt no need to see the film.

Then I watched the trailer for the upcoming “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2,” and was laughing at nearly every joke in that short little bit of the film. I knew that, from the trailer alone, I had to see this film. To better understand the awesomeness of multiple food animal puns, I thought it’d be good to watch the first one.

Luckily, the fun spirit and quirky yet quick humor of “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” kept me thoroughly entertained from start to finish.

Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) grew up believing that he would become one of the greatest minds the world had ever seen, and spent most of his time creating inventions for the betterment of man kind, always resulting in failure and ridicule. But Flint’s never give-up attitude allowed him to bounce back from every one, leading to his greatest invention yet: A machine that converts water into any food you can imagine.

During a town celebration, where Flint plans to show off his biggest achievement to everyone in Swallow Falls, things go terribly wrong and the machine is launched into the Stratosphere like a rocket. Yet much to Flint and the town’s amazement, it combines with a large cloud to create a never ending storm of food.

Now Flint is celebrated as a town hero and Swallow Falls becomes the biggest tourist attraction in the world. But as the mayor of the town begins to ask far too much out of Flint and the machine, the food begins to grow larger and more unstable, endangering the town and the entire world of being engulfed in a gigantic food storm.

What I will take away the most from “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” are the characters. For once, there is not a single character that I hated. I was given a reason to love and laugh at every one of the people in this town. From the glutton of a mayor (voiced by Bruce Campbell), to the sassy yet badass cop of the town who will do anything for his son (voiced by Mr. T, foo’).

The character that I couldn’t help but fall in love with was the romantic lead, Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris), a spunky weather girl who comes to Swallow Falls from New York to have one big chance to make it big. As she spends more time with Flint, we learn more about how she’s intelligent but chooses to hide that side of herself so that she’ll be accepted by society. 

So while Sam always has this optimistic and cheerful attitude about everything that goes on, she has this part of herself that wants to come out but can’t. I’ve always felt the best way to get an audience to like a character is to first introduce us to their general attitude and lifestyle, getting us to first like and understand them, but then give us more. Sam Sparks is a fantastic example of that.

Not to mention her character ties in nicely with the main theme of the movie: Being okay in your own skin and loving yourself for who you are. To not care about what others say or think about you, so long as you are happy with you. 

Flint is constantly being haunted by the ideas that his mother instilled in him at a young age, about pursing his dreams of being a great scientist. His father (voiced by James Caan) was never happy with that, always wanting his son to do something that he knew Flint could succeed in. It’s this drive within Flint that makes him want to create even better inventions. 

The passion of machines and gadgetry within Flint is what drives Sam to see herself as she truly wants to be. That she doesn’t need to hide behind a fake laugh and dumb exterior just to so others won’t pick on her. 

Because of this kind of morality and theme, combined with the visually appealing style of giant foods falls from the sky with a vast range of colors and palettes and consistent humor that hits just the right notes for both adults and children, “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” was so much fun to watch.

Final Grade: B+

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