Theatrical Review: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS

by: GATW Guest Writer
September 18th, 2009

cloudy-chance-meatballs-pos

Rating: 6/10

Writers: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Cast: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell
Studio: Columbia Pictures

On my way to see CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, the day seemed perfect for watching a movie about food falling from the sky because the Dallas/Fort Worth area was being treated to some rare summer showers, which definitely felt like a meteorological anomaly. Then, upon arriving at the movie theater, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I’d be watching the movie in an auditorium full of families. Usually I don’t want crying babies in the same theater as me, but what a better way to gauge the effectiveness of an animated movie than to see it with its two inevitable audiences: kids and the adults they drag along.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS is based on a children’s book of the same title, in which a grandfather tells his grandkids a bedtime story about Chewandswallow, a town where food inexplicably rains down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The movie, however, takes a slightly different approach by giving a scientific explanation to rain-food’s origins.

The film ditches the kids and the grandpa, and instead focuses on Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), a young man who, despite his father’s objections, dreams of becoming a great inventor. Unfortunately, his creations have not been successful, though they are used to great comedic effect effect in the movie, such as his pet monkey, Steve, who says hilarious things with the aid of a translator invented by Flint (but the Summer's Best Talking Animal Award still goes to UP). His big break comes when his machine to turn water into food goes haywire and is shot into the atmosphere, where it begins to turn rain into delicious dishes. The ensuing burger-storm catches the attention of intern-turned-weathergirl, Sam Sparks (Anna Farris), who Flint falls in love with, and Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell), who wants to use Flint’s machine to increase tourism in the town. Flint finally wins the acceptance of everyone in the town (except his father), until the food starts to mutate to dangerous proportions.

There are certain adjustments you have to make when adapting a 30-page book into a feature film, and these changes have consequences. For this movie, writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller added Flint Lockwood and his crazy inventions to the mix, offering them plenty of material to write about, but forfeiting the childlike wonder of book. Giving the food a reason for existing is the equivalent of adding midichlorians to explain the Force. An even bigger consequence, though, of removing the tall tale from the imagination of the book’s grandfather and placing it in the real world is that it allows for criticism of the movie’s logic, which kids might not notice, but as an adult, I did. Of the movie's flaws, there were two things that bothered me most.

First, what happens to the food that is not eaten? The movie has a simple explanation: it's thrown by catapult to the so-called Mount Leftovers, which is essentially a huge landfill of food. I don’t know about you, but I hate taking out the garbage at my house because of the smell, and if one bag of week-old food is enough for me to hold my nose, I can’t even imagine a whole mountain of it! The food on Mount Leftovers, though, doesn’t smell. It doesn’t even rot. I would imagine that such bacteria-resistant food would also have a hard time breaking down in our stomachs, but CLOGGED WITH A CHANCE OF DRANO is certainly not a title that would have appealed to many people.

Second, the characters are idiots, which I found amusing at first, but it quickly got on my nerves. Yes, Flint Lockwood is a scientist who creates pretty amazing stuff, so you can argue that he's intelligent, but he doesn’t use his food-making machine for its most obvious use. If tomorrow scientists announced, “we’ve created a way to make food out of thin air,” wouldn’t your first thought be, “wow, there goes world hunger"?But no one, not Flint, the town, or anyone in the rest of the world of the movie, brings this up. The only person who sees the potential of the machine is the mayor, and although he uses the machine for his own personal gain, at least he uses it for something.

These are small complaints but they ruined the movie for me, and although most kids won’t notice, they deserve smarter storytelling. The true heart of the movie lies in the relationship of Flint and his father. Sadly, between the film's many one-liners and Flint trying hook up with Sam Sparks, that relationship is condensed to a few short scenes. This is a shame because the most creative, funny, and genuinely sweet moment in the film was a scene between Flint and his dad. Unfortunately, it took the movie ninety minutes to get there and by then the credits were rolling.

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  • http://www.roomonfire.com/ kevin c

    it's a kid's movie, and this review goes on about how things that don't matter
    like how the food should be rotting! I mean the food must be realistic in how it acts, because everything else in this movie is so incredibly realistic
    and criticizing the main character in a childrens movie for not immediately trying to solve world hunger with his incredible invention

    jesus christ you don't know how to review films at all

  • http://www.gordonandthewhale.com JamesWallace

    Kevin, I understand that this is your opinion, which you are most certainly entitled to and I most certainly respect. Yet, Wilhem is also entitled to his. He disliked certain aspects of the film for his own reasons, you liked it for your own.

    I myself love CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS but just because I happen to disagree with Wilhem does not mean I automatically think that makes him a bad reviewer. You just didn't agree with what he had to say and that's fine but personal attacks are a bit unnecessary.

    That's what makes film, and art, so amazing. Many people can see one film and walk away with their own thoughts, feelings and opinions for their own reasons and NONE of them are wrong.

    Furthermore, a film is a film, animated or not. It is acceptable for a critic, in a review, to apply logic and film theory just the same way that he would in a review for a live-action film. A script is a script. They’re read on the same type of screens and printed on the same type of paper. The only difference is the films are presented through different types of mediums.

    Yet, with what Pixar is doing, as well as other animated films, is blurring the lines between animated and live-action in-terms of emotional weight, breaking down the idea that just because it's an animated movie automatically makes it a “kid's movie.” This implies that the film is only geared towards children and will only appeal towards children. I personally did not see it as this, and have in fact seen CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS, as well as UP, on many critic's Top 10 list right next to film's like UP IN THE AIR.

    After all, you seemed to like this “children’s movie” enough to read our review and take the time to comment on it and you’re an adult. Seems to me like that makes it not just a movie for children.

  • http://www.roomonfire.com/ kevin c

    My initial comment comes off incredibly harsh. Not going to say sorry, but I've got something to say, here. I open with “it's a kid's movie” not as a statement of the emotional weight I expect the movie to carry, but because of the subject matter. Bringing up world hunger, and how certain things in the movie should behave realistically, when in context: The first doesn't matter, and the second doesn't fit in with the rest of the film.

    A good reviewer looks over the film, what it offers, and then within the context of the film, judges it. I know that reviewing is incredibly subjective, not going to deny that (it would be stupid to do so) but to say there's no objectivity is wrong.

    This review is flawed. If he's bringing up “why isn't the food rotting” (and that's a game breaker for him) in a movie about food falling from the sky, which was invented by a teenager (with a talking monkey sidekick), which was blanketing a town where everyone ONLY ATE SARDINES (run on sentence I know)

    why couldn't he suspend his disbelief? He did it for crazy inventions, jello castles, and Mr. T as a police officer. It's inconsistent

    watching the movie, I saw all of the food disappearing from one scene to the other, and I just didn't think anything of it, I didn't go WHERE IS THE FOOD GOING BECAUSE THAT IS UNREALISTIC. But then the film addressed it. Another invention was created to get rid of the food, and it subtly set us up for the action scene later in the movie.

    The “rotting fooooood!?” thing isn't a correct analysis of the film. Because in the context of the film, it works, and food not rotting also provides us with the avalanche later. I could also argue because the food is being altered so much (the machine going haywire) it probably DOESN'T rot, etc etc

    I mean, jesus if you went to see this movie and your friend was like “eh, it was alright”
    and you said
    “oh, what was wrong with it, in your opinion? did the jokes fall flat, was the storytelling contrived, was the cinematography bad…”
    and he replies
    “The food didn't rot. That's a point against the film, because the food didn't rot.”
    you say: “Okay, that doesn't really hinder anything about the film; what else did you think was wrong?”
    he says: “And the characters were idiots! Flint should have cured world hunger with his amazing invention”
    and you would (hopefully) reply: “That's not fair. You're taking your own opinions, and transplanting them into a character in a film (with set emotions, opinions, world views and motivations) and calling the film wrong because the character isn't doing something YOU'D like to see them do. If I watched Batman and though that if Batman would just KILL every villain (batman has a strict no-kill policy) I can't be justified in calling the film bad (or in this case, flawed) because a character doesn't do what *I* want them to do”

    seriously, reviews similar to this also say things along the lines of “Avatar was a BAD MOVIE because they could have just BOMBED THE PLANET FROM ORBIT and have BEEN DONE WITH IT. Bad movie”

  • http://www.roomonfire.com/ kevin c

    My initial comment comes off incredibly harsh. Not going to say sorry, but I've got something to say, here. I open with “it's a kid's movie” not as a statement of the emotional weight I expect the movie to carry, but because of the subject matter. Bringing up world hunger, and how certain things in the movie should behave realistically, when in context: The first doesn't matter, and the second doesn't fit in with the rest of the film.

    A good reviewer looks over the film, what it offers, and then within the context of the film, judges it. I know that reviewing is incredibly subjective, not going to deny that (it would be stupid to do so) but to say there's no objectivity is wrong.

    This review is flawed. If he's bringing up “why isn't the food rotting” (and that's a game breaker for him) in a movie about food falling from the sky, which was invented by a teenager (with a talking monkey sidekick), which was blanketing a town where everyone ONLY ATE SARDINES (run on sentence I know)

    why couldn't he suspend his disbelief? He did it for crazy inventions, jello castles, and Mr. T as a police officer. It's inconsistent

    watching the movie, I saw all of the food disappearing from one scene to the other, and I just didn't think anything of it, I didn't go WHERE IS THE FOOD GOING BECAUSE THAT IS UNREALISTIC. But then the film addressed it. Another invention was created to get rid of the food, and it subtly set us up for the action scene later in the movie.

    The “rotting fooooood!?” thing isn't a correct analysis of the film. Because in the context of the film, it works, and food not rotting also provides us with the avalanche later. I could also argue because the food is being altered so much (the machine going haywire) it probably DOESN'T rot, etc etc

    I mean, jesus if you went to see this movie and your friend was like “eh, it was alright”
    and you said
    “oh, what was wrong with it, in your opinion? did the jokes fall flat, was the storytelling contrived, was the cinematography bad…”
    and he replies
    “The food didn't rot. That's a point against the film, because the food didn't rot.”
    you say: “Okay, that doesn't really hinder anything about the film; what else did you think was wrong?”
    he says: “And the characters were idiots! Flint should have cured world hunger with his amazing invention”
    and you would (hopefully) reply: “That's not fair. You're taking your own opinions, and transplanting them into a character in a film (with set emotions, opinions, world views and motivations) and calling the film wrong because the character isn't doing something YOU'D like to see them do. If I watched Batman and though that if Batman would just KILL every villain (batman has a strict no-kill policy) I can't be justified in calling the film bad (or in this case, flawed) because a character doesn't do what *I* want them to do”

    seriously, reviews similar to this also say things along the lines of “Avatar was a BAD MOVIE because they could have just BOMBED THE PLANET FROM ORBIT and have BEEN DONE WITH IT. Bad movie”

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