Monday 21 October 2013

From the archive: "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

A lot of nondescript, factory-line computer animation passed our way over the summer, so it's perverse that the standout release Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - easily Sony Pictures Animation's best since Monster House back in 2006 - should have been held back until after the holidays: parents might want to use it as a treat for little ones who've done their homework early. The tiny island of Swallow Falls - look it up; it's under the "A" in Atlantic Ocean on the map - has fallen into disrepair after the closure of its sardine cannery. Following a run of failures - including a misjudged attempt to crossbreed rats and birds - wild-haired inventor Flint Lockwood (voice: Bill Hader) finally lucks out with a satellite that converts water into food: cue tourism-boosting flurries of cheeseburgers and ice-cream snowdrifts. Soon, the community's been renamed Chew and Swallow Falls - but the "apparently indestructible" dam around Mount Leftovers will only hold so long.

The imagination runs deep here. Secondary characters include a bemulleted sardine mascot, gone to obnoxious flab on his own small-town celebrity, and a hotpants-sporting, Mr. T-voiced cop - he pities the food - whose movements alone justify the now-obligatory grafting on of 3D. Breakthrough writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller juggle these and other visual flourishes - gelatine haystacks, flying pizza slices - without obscuring the emotional business of Flint reconnecting with his monobrowed fisherman father, or the cautionary message on the perils of unregulated consumption. There are some great gags along the way. Concerned weathergirl/love interest Sam Sparks (Anna Faris): "That spaghetti twister is just an amuse-bouche compared to what's on its way." Crowd gathering behind her: "What's an amuse-bouche?" In its own way, the film itself is.

(September 2009)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is available on DVD through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; a sequel opens this Friday.

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