Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 13th, 2010
“Have you ever felt like you were a little bit different. Like you had something unique to offer to the world, if only you could just get people to see it? Then you know exactly how it felt to be me.”
The title is taken from a very short children’s book written by Judi and Ron Barrett. I say the title and not the story because this movie takes only the most basic concept from the book to create the movie. Most of the characters are brand new creations, and the plot of the entire film deals with events not covered in the book. You have to credit Phil Lord and Chris Miller for pretty much everything you see happen in this film. I have only a passing familiarity with the kiddie book, but have now had the chance to see the movie in this Blu-ray high definition release.
Flint Lockwood (Hader) has always wanted to be an inventor. Since early childhood, he has come up with plenty of near misses in the form of ratbirds, a monkey thought translator, and spray on shoes that can’t be removed. He lives in the town of Swallow Falls. It has been the sardine capital of the world for years thanks to the huge local sardine cannery. But when demand for sardines crashes, the cannery is forced out of business. The town becomes somewhat of a ghost town and stuck finding ways to deal with all of the surplus sardines. The people are getting quite fed up with a steady diet of the salty fish. Flint’s father (Caan) owns a bait and sardine shop and sees Flint following in his footsteps. But Flint can’t let go of the inventor bug. Now he thinks he might have the best invention yet, a machine that turns water vapor into any kind of food you might want. He decides to test his machine at the mayor’s (Campbell) unveiling of his own plan to save Swallow Falls: Sardine Land. It’s really just a big goldfish bowl with the world’s largest sardine Shamo. Of course, Flint’s device goes awry, and he destroys Sardine Land, and, so it seems, any hope for the town to get back on its feet. They all hate him, particularly local top cop Earl (Mr. T). That is, until it begins to rain cheeseburgers.
At the event is weather girl wannabe Sam Sparks (Faris). She’s getting her first break covering the grand opening when it appears the event and her career are met with disaster. That is, until it begins to rain cheeseburgers.
Suddenly Flint is a hero, and the mayor has big plans for the boy and his invention. He’s going to change the name of the town to ChewandSwallow and invite tourists to come and eat from the windfall created by Flint’s machine. Pretty soon he’s taking orders for what food to rain down on the town. As for Sam Sparks? Well, of course, when Flint meets Sparks, you get fire. The two share an on again off again romantic thread.
But something soon goes wrong. The machine’s indicator warns that the machine is becoming overloaded, and this could lead to mutation of the falling food. The end result is predictable giant portions falling from the sky. As things get out of control, a pasta tornado hurling giant meatballs begins to destroy the town. It’s getting worse, and the only chance they have is to fly into the cloud of the now living machine and download a virus to shut it down.
The entire thing is over the top, but in a childish rather enchanting way. The town is populated with enough colorful characters to keep the story moving and entertaining enough. Mr. T as the local cop has a reverse Mohawk with hair on the sides and bald down the center. Andy Samberg lends a ton of laughs as Baby Brent. Brent as a baby appeared on the cans of sardines back in the day and has become a local hero of sorts. He gets jealous when Flint begins to get all the attention. James Caan adds a ton to the dad with a unibrow and no eyes. He looks like the Chef from The Muppet Show. Flint is trying to make him proud, but the father and son have trouble communicating. Anna Faris is a bit manic as Sam Sparks and really not as charming as I think the character should have been. The star of the whole thing is Bruce Campbell as the exploitive mayor who grows larger and larger on the free plentiful food. Campbell has long been a cult favorite and is a wonderful choice here.
The animation is fine, but don’t expect Pixar quality here. Water is rendered particularly well, looking photorealistic in spots. The filmmakers were going for a cartoon look here, so everything in the animation is exaggerated to a large extent. Heads and eyes tend to be huge, and the characters are very much caricatures. It’s all part of the overall theme of the film’s style. You quickly adapt to it, and it really feels like you’re reading a pop-up book at times. While it’s certainly not the best animated film of the year, it is one of the more entertaining. It was an expensive film to make, costing over $100 million, and it did take in an extra quarter of a million in box office. Not really a huge success, but more than enough cushion to present possible sequels.
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average 26 mbps. This image looks very good. Everything is so crisp and clean. Colors are often bright and really do pop. This is intended to look like a cartoon world, and it does. That also means not a whole lot of detail in the production, but it all comes across well in this high definition release. Black levels are top notch. The animation is extremely clean. It looks exactly as it was intended to look.
The DTS-HD Master audio quite good. The film has a nice dynamic quality to it. It sounds very bright and cheery, even during the disasters. The music is bouncy and whimsical. Dialog is always fine. There are some rather nice subtle effects spread out over the surrounds. Even the bass response is pretty lively for this kind of film.
There is a very amusing Audio Commentary with Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and actor Bill Hader. They joke around a lot and still manage to inform as well as entertain.
There is a digital copy, but only for PSP. There is a DVD copy of the film in this set as well. All of the features are in HD.
Splat Mode: During the film you can use your color buttons on your remote control to throw food at the screen. There’s a clean option for when it gets too messy. This actually should be very entertaining for the kids, and the mess can be cleaned with a push of a button.
A Recipe For Success – The Making Of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs: (10:51) Begins as just a synopsis but eventually covers new ground. The original book is talked about, as are the extreme differences in the stories. It touches on voice cast, food design, pre-viz, and overall animation style. There are interludes with Chris Miller and Phil Lord in a kitchen comparing the various filmmaking aspects to making a cheeseburger, rather messily I might add.
Key Ingredients – The Voice Cast Of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs: (12:39) Catch the voice cast doing their thing in the studio. They offer up plenty of tidbits on their characters and the fun they had doing the film. There is some side by side footage of the voice actor and the final film. Mr. T is sure showing his age, and there’s no bling.
Extra Footage: 2 Extended Scenes (2:36) and 2 Early Development Scenes (5:49)
Music Video: Miranda Cosgrove sings the “Raining Sunshine” song.
The real purpose of these kinds of films is really no different from most other kinds of films: to make money. Well … yeah … sure … But in order to do that, they must be entertaining. This is the kind of film that makes no other pretenses than merely to be a lot of fun. You can see it in the behind the scenes stuff, and you will feel it in your own home. The kids will like it, and it won’t be painful at all for the adults. If Hollywood can just keep that simple concept in mind when they set out to make an animated, or any other film, for that matter, “I forecast sunny side up”.