Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: 100% Chance of Nonstop Laughter

The children’s book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett has the perfect combination of magic and silliness that has made it last through the years. Fortunately, the film adaptation, even though it contains significant plot additions from the book, has cherished the silliness and delivered the magic. From the very beginning all the way through its exciting climax, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs shows an inventiveness and a visual wit that is quite rare in any movie, much less in animation, where usually the filmmakers are content to placate to the lowest common denominator that children will enjoy. It certainly belongs in the upper echelon of recent animated films, and side by side with Up, Coraline, and Ice Age 3, 2009 will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the strongest, if not the strongest, year in animated film history.

Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) always wanted to be a great inventor. When his hometown’s sardine industry goes under, he invents a machine that turns weather condensation into food. The mayor (Bruce Campbell) opens a sardine-themed amusement park to try to attract tourist, with the help of their sardine mascot, Baby Brent (Andy Samberg), but it seems less than impressive. However, Lockwood’s invention actually works, and it rains cheeseburgers. A weather channel intern, Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), happens to be there and reports on the weather phenomenon. He makes it rain delicious food, she reports it, and everyone is happy. But will impending danger with the food machine cause Flint to shut down his invention? Will he ever make his dad proud? Will he win the heart of the young cute weather girl? And finally, will Steve, Flint’s talking monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), ever get the Gummi Bears he so desires?

The most frustrating aspect of this film is that I didn’t see it with a notepad, so I wasn’t able to jot down every single gag I laughed at. However, let it be known I wouldn’t have been able to use a regular pencil, for I would have worn the graphite point down to a nub before the first hour was through. The movie establishes its silliness from the very opening credits (the woman in the Columbia logo gets knocked off her stand with a banana, and we get this title card with ominious music: “A Film By… A Lot of People”), and it hits you with joke after joke unrelentingly. Unlike a parody or some inferior film desperate to make you laugh, this film uses wit, both verbal and visual, to win you over quickly and keep you laughing for the full ninety minutes. Multiple characters endeared themselves to me instantly due to their level of hilarity, and I found myself audibly guffawing more often than in most films this year– this would be a Top 3 or 4 film for 2009 in laughs per minute.

The reason why this film will last is its sense of innocence– it doesn’t go for adult laughs or kid laughs specifically, just silly fun laughs for all ages. Its messages of father-son love are cliched, but the storyline about how girls who pretend to be dumb just to be popular should so how smart they are is something that can’t go undervalued in this age of reality show bimbos and anorexic superstars. I never once sensed that the 3D effects were forced or awkward, and despite the cartoony character design, it’s a film with absorbing animation that achieves a sense of wonder even though it clearly never reaches realism. Some films were never meant to be realistic– the title of this one should have made it a clear giveaway. Instead of attempting to spoil the hundreds of gags, and instead of heaping gratuitous praise on individual members of the cast and crew (it was written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who have written and produced several episodes of the grossly underrated sitcom How I Met Your Mother), I will instead merely say that this is a terrific film by… a lot of people. With Oscar season coming up, this could be the last great silly comedy we get this year. I ate it up like a plate of meatballs.

~ by russellhainline on September 20, 2009.

2 Responses to “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: 100% Chance of Nonstop Laughter”

  1. […] 9. Monsters vs. Aliens 8. 9 7. Fantastic Mr. Fox 6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 5. Coraline 4. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 3. Ponyo 2. The Princess and the Frog 1. […]

  2. I enjoyed this too! Great review.

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