REVIEW: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

30 09 2009

Hollywood seems to have made it a habit to take successful children’s stories and completely reinvent them, usually in a way that alienates those who loved the original story.  “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is the paragon of the above description.  The movie’s source material was probably my favorite book as an emerging reader.  I loved the phenomenon of raining food, and it really inspired me to turn on my imagination.  Best of all, the authors allowed you to accept this without ramming some explanation for their creation down your throat.  The filmmakers, however, did not feel the same way.  Apparently, it was necessary to completely change the plot in order to make it scientific.  Taking nothing but the idea of raining food, they created a completely new movie, leaving me with a predisposed hatred before I even donned the 3-D Wayfarer glasses.

The movie replaces Grandpa Henry telling a story to his grandchildren about mashed potato snow and soup rain with Flint Lockwood, an eccentric inventor whose innovations never quite live up to his dreams.  But one idea finally works: turning water into food.  When hamburgers and filet mignon start flying from the sky, Flint is the town hero.  But as Johnny from “The Outsiders” reminds us, nothing gold can stay.  Eventually, Flint loses control of the machine, wreaking havoc on his poor town.  Kids movies often love to sell a message or a moral, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” could have served a double whammy with greed and overeating.  However, it decides to give a relatively soft sell and focuses on more strange foods falling on the sky than thematic development.

There is rightfully a hierarchy of computer animation with Pixar at the apex, DreamWorks slightly below, and all others still lagging behind in technology at the bottom.  “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” doesn’t have many exciting visuals even in 3D.  What shocks me even more is how unrealistic the characters look.  Unless Pixar is hoarding the technology, I don’t really see any excuse to not make them look real.

Overall, the movie could have been a lot worse.  The first half was pretty dreadful as it trudges through the stale plot devices that characterize these types of movies.  I don’t think there is anything wrong in the slightest with telling kids to reach for their dreams or to do what makes them happy, but they hear it in every stinking movie catered to their interests.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one of them respected them enough to quit telling them what they already know?  The second half, much to my surprise, succeeds despite its shortcomings.  It was strangely fun to watch the characters use a flying car and trudge through all sorts, and I was actually able to drop my pre-existing grudge and just enjoy some mindless fun.  I have to give it a low grade because I am still enraged at the filmmakers decision to throw my beloved story down the drain, but I raised it a smidgeon because the smaller members of the audience were howling.  C / 2stars



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