“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”

The small island of Swallow Falls suffers an economic downturn after the demand for sardines plummeted. Now stuck with their supply, sardines became the sole food for the locals. The outcast boy Flint Lockwood is a clumsy inventor, none of whose inventions seem to make sense or be useful. However, he has the support of his mother but when she dies, he’s left alone with his father who thinks he should give it up. But Flint, being the inventor that he is, has just invented a machine, designed to turn water into food. And He decides to test it out… but things don’t go according to plan: the machine accidentally destroys the town square and rockets up into the clouds and Flint thinks his inventing career is over. Until something amazing happens – cheeseburgers start raining from the sky. His machine actually works! The food weather is an instant success, and Flint forges a fast friendship with Sam Sparks, the weathergirl who comes to town to cover what she calls “the greatest weather phenomenon in history.” But when people greedily ask for more and more food, the machine starts behaving erratically, unleashing spaghetti tornadoes and giant meatballs. With the town about to be buried beneath mountains of marshmallows and waves of watermelons, it’s up to Flint and Sam to use their combined expertise to shut down the machine and put everything right.

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I’m not a huge fan of most of the non-Disney Animation, non-Pixar animated films being released these days. I was drawn to this film mainly because Benjamin Bratt lent his voice to Manny, Sam’s Guatemalan cameraman and a former doctor, pilot, and comedian (a pretty amazing mix of skills! Unluckily, he doesn’t talk very much :( ), I was pleasantly surprised by “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”. I haven’t read the book it is inspired to (it’s curious, though, how they managed to turn a 32-page-long story into a 1.5-hour-long film), so I don’t know how they compare. However, although it isn’t particularly complex or thought-provoking, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” is a witty and entertaing film to watch, full of endearing and hilarious characters. It’s a bit slow to start with, but once it gets going it turns into a funny film.

The whole thing’s got intelligence and heart without being sappy; it’s about greed, it’s about sustainability, it’s about consumerism, it’s about obsessive science geeks wanting the approval of their parents, it’s about the dreams we hold as children and the hope that we may one day achieve them. And it hints at society’s tendency to place physical appearance above all else, and mocks this behaviour in a funny and creative way. It’s got all the fundamentals a film needs, comedy, romance, despair, action and adventure, and I loved that the obvious social-consciousness implications aren’t shoved into your face, they’re there, but they’re played with humor.

The effects are not pixel perfect but then again I think this film is not supposed to be. There’s something very old-fashioned in the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” look and the way it is animated. The characters are crafted from the most basic shapes, resembling googly-eyed muppets or the protagonists of cartoons from the 1940s and 1950s, but all have a delicate patina of texture and depth that gives them dimensionality, and they behave and move the way old TV cartoons behaved forty or more years ago. They jump a lot, are very ‘agile’ and are just cartoonish. Clearly, the animators didn’t want the movie to give a palpable sense of realism; in a way, they were trying to craft an old-fashioned cartoon with the latest technological tools. And the voice cast capture their characters well and succeed in making them alive and fun. The result is that each character – the nerdy outcast whose enthusiasm leads to trouble for the whole town, the brainy-but-trying-not-to-be pretty weathergirl, the uncommunicative father, the hulking, narcissistic  playboy (Baby Brent), the over-protective town policeman and the greedy and glutton Mayor –  were adorable characters without trying too hard to be.

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