Pixar has had a stranglehold on producing can’t miss animated movies for more than a decade. It’s at the point now that if you’re the competition, unless you’re a known entity in the animated world (aka: Shrek) it’s just that much harder to break through at the box office.
Last year one such movie did break through, and it did so by being released at just the right time, when little else was available for families. That movie was Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and after hitting the right notes with movie-goers allowing solid word of mouth business, the movie went on to gross over $200 million worldwide, and has now been released for our home theatres. Having just finished watching it, I must say, it’s a welcome edition not only to the family film collection, but also to fans of funny movies in general.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of Flint Lockwood (voiced by SNL‘s Bill Hader), a resident of a small island community (think more suburban over tropical) located under the ‘A’ in Atlantic Ocean on a map. He’s a young inventor who has been hoping to create something so spectacular it will allow others to see past his geeky exterior, and like him for who he is; including his father (voiced by James Caan).
His plan is to create a machine that will be able to transform water into food in order to help his community, which has had to live off of the sardines it used to export before the world realized sardines were disgusting. When trying to test the device during a ceremony being held by the town’s mayor (voiced by Bruce Campbell) Flint finds himself in trouble as his machine causes a major scene, and ends up firing off into the sky lost forever. Flint is about to be arrested by the town’s one man army Earl Devereaux (voiced by Mr. T) when they soon realize his invention isn’t lost…but is in fact working.
Out of nowhere cheeseburgers begin falling from the sky, much to the crowd’s delight, and Flint instantly becomes a hero in the eyes of his fellow citizens as well as weather girl intern Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris), who was sent to cover the ceremony. Of course, what’s a movie without a villain, and in this case it’s the town’s mayor who is out to exploit Flint and his invention in hopes of making his town a cruise ship tourist destination.
The story itself is filled with great humour, the likes of which work well in animated movies today. Quick one-liners, ongoing jokes, and jokes that only adults will laugh at are abundant; yet they’re mixed in with plenty of scenes that will have kids laughing as well. The mix is done quite well, and I found myself laughing to the point of replaying scenes not only to catch something I missed, but to watch a scene again simply because it was that funny.
The animation looks great and the voices are spot-on in their delivery. The story is easy to follow, though younger kids will simply enjoy all the foods falling from the sky even if the plot goes over their heads a bit. There are emotional notes that help solidify the story, though not heavy enough to bog down the comedy or pacing of the film.
If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted movie that breaks the laws of physics…and just about every other law of reality (it is about food falling from the sky) then Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs should definitely be one you check out.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs looks fantastic in HD at full 1080p. It’s clear, crisp and filled with vibrant colours that shoot off your screen. The audio is a 5.1 DTS-HD MA, which sounds great. The voices, music and sound effects all come through clearly, as well as on the right levels so adjusting the volume is never needed.
Another release with one of the best ideas I think is out there is the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy package deal. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs comes with all three, which works out great as not everyone has a Blu-ray player, but will likely upgrade in the future, and this helps them not have to repurchase every title in their collection. It’s also great because even if you have a Blu-ray player, maybe you want to watch it in another room, or on the computer, and voila, now you can with the DVD. A great inclusion in this package.
Splat Mode – This mode may be easier to use if you have a Blu-ray remote, as I found it more awkward to use with the PS3 controller at first; however I got the gist of it and kids will have a blast splatting eggs all over the screen while the movie plays. It’s something to turn on for the kids during a repeat viewing though, as it obviously distracts from the movie itself.
Flint’s Food Fight Game – A small game where you help Flint stop the food being created by his invention. Another one kids should enjoy, and a solid, little add-on to a kid’s movie to keep them interested after it’s finished.
Commentary with Writers/Directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, and Actor Bill Hader – Hader plays Flint in the movie, and this just gives you a bit of an insider’s look into their comedic minds. This’ll be for the older crowd who are interested in hearing the fun tales throughout the film, or fans of Hader in general.
A Recipe for Success – A small making of featurette running at about 10 minutes. Comments from different actors, as well as Miller and Lord are shown throughout. Not incredibly long, yet enough to satisfy the craving one may have to see a bit more.
Key Ingredients – This is a fun featurette that runs at almost 13 minutes, and looks at all the various actors and actresses that voiced the characters in the film.
Extended Scenes – A few extended scenes that were never fully finalized, yet here because they’re required in any extras package since they may get knocked if they don’t exist.
Early Development Scenes – Some storyboard scenes that come together in the earlier stages of development. This featurette runs around 5 minutes.
Progression Reels – Coming it at a little under the 10 minute mark, this featurette is hosted by Visual FX Supervisor Rob Bredow. Bredow’s job was to make sure everything in the movie was fully animated, and put together in an order where everything made sense.
Music Video – A music video for the song “Raining Sunshine” by artist Miranda Cosgrove.
Make it Rain Food – A short clip for an anti-hunger campaign.
Previews – Sony shows off some other releases it has out, including the newer Planet 51.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs could have easily been a movie bypassed by much of the public because of the trailers presenting it as a wacky film with food falling over the place. Though a smart release date gave it a shot and allowed people to see it was actually filled with a solid, fun story as well as many laugh-out-loud moments that helped it turn out to be one of the bigger animated hits of 2009.
Columbia Pictures presents Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Directed by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T. Written by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Running time: 90 minutes. Rating: G. Released on Blu-ray: Jan. 5, 2010. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Andy Samberg, animation, Anna Faris, Benjamin Bratt, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, comedy, James Caan, Mr. T, Neil Patrick Harris, Pixar, Will Forte