Monday, September 21, 2009

Movie Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ** ½
Directed By: Phil Lord & Chris Miller.
Written By: Phil Lord & Chris Miller based on the book by Jodi & Ron Barrett.
Starring: Bill Hader (Flint Lockwood), Anna Farris (Sam Sparks), James Caan (Tim Lockwood), Andy Samberg (Baby Brent), Bruce Campbell (Mayor), Mr. T. (Earl Devereaux), Bobb’e J. Thompson (Cal Deverauex), Benjamin Bratt (Manny), Neil Patrick Harris (Steve).

There is a manic energy to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs that is charming for a little while, but then becomes rather exhausting by the end of the film. It is an animated film that children are going to love, as it moves so quickly, and has such wonderful use of color, that they will not help but be entertained - especially if they see the film in 3-D. And even if the adults in the crowd are not going to love the film as much as they love a Pixar movie, the time will pass pleasantly enough. I just wish that the film went just a little bit farther, and was just a little bit better. By the end of the film - and at just over 80 minutes it’s a short one - I was bored.

The movie is about Flint Lockwood (with the voice of Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader), a young man who has been trying to be an inventor ever since he was a little kid. The only person who ever believed in him was his mother, but now that she is dead, his father (James Caan) wants him to go into the family business of selling bait. They live on a small island where the only industry was sardines, but that was before the world realized that sardines are super gross, and stopped buying them. Flint dreams of helping out his small town with one of his inventions, and purely by accident, he seems to have found a way to do it. He has invented a machine that turns water into food, and when the machine accidentally gets shot into the stratosphere, it starts raining food on the town. This draws the attention of the Weather Network, who sends intern Sam Sparks (Anna Farris) to cover the story. She is incredibly smart, and really cute, but feels the need to cover up her intelligence. The Weather Network wants their women cute and perky, with no brains, and so she acts like a simpleton.

Of course, there is a problem with the machine that starts out great, and ends up needing to be stopped by Flint before it destroys everything. Along the way, Flint bonds with his father, romances Sam, and learns to accept himself for who he is. And so does Sam. And pretty much everyone else in the film.

I really enjoyed the opening scenes in the movies, which have a madcap energy to them. The voice cast is universally excellent - Hader is lovable and funny as Flint, and Farris somehow manages to be just as adorable as she is on film. The animation has a strange, retro look to it that fits in wonderfully well. There are some wonderfully inventive animated sequences in the movie - the best one being a snowball fight, where Flint runs around like a videogame character, mowing down whoever gets in his way.
In fact, there really is nothing wrong with the movie itself. What it does, it does fairly well, and the time passes pleasantly enough. The only problem I have is the films last act degenerates a little too much into a series of boring clichés, and chases sequences that do not add to the movie. Sure, the kids will like the movie, and for parents, the time will pass pleasantly enough. But the movie never quite gets to the level of a truly good movie. Its fine, but it should have been better.

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