Friday, October 30, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

If I ever read the book that Sony's new animated movie was based on, I don't remember it. Essentially, it tells the story of Chewandswallow, a delightful little town in which the clouds rain food. The movie delves into the origin story of this community, and how its peculiar weather patterns came to be. It's a cute story, and has some potential for fun visuals (seriously. Raining food? That could be deliciously wacky). Unfortunately, though, this movie is indicative of what I see as a problem in the animation industry. Any charm or uniqueness is sacrificed for a safe bet, and 3D.

Naturally, this movie was indeed in 3D, though I did not see it as such. As usual, this proves to be a good litmus test on the directing of a movie. If it holds up without having to rely on cheap 3D tricks, they've done a good job. Unfortunately, Phil Lord and Chris Miller seemed to use the technology as a bit of a crutch. I appreciated the apocalyptic imagery of food raining from the sky, but there's only so many times you can see burgers falling past the camera before it gets old. There's very little in the movie besides what was presented in the trailers.

The story centers on Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a dud of an inventor who wants nothing more than to make his father (James Caan) proud of him. Despite his machine to (unwittingly) make it rain food, their relationship remains strained. Naturally things have to go awry when the mayor (Bruce Campbell) of the economically depressed town takes over control of the machine. Throw in a struggling reporter/love interest (Anna Faris) and you have a recipe for an extremely generic movie.

One of the movie's biggest flaws (at least from the perspective of an animation student) is the inconsistency in style. Some of the characters, especially the police officer voiced by Mr. T, feature incredible quick and snappy animation. Whereas other characters are much more subtle and realistic. Both are completely valid, but they don't belong together.

In addition to the animation issues, the story had some pretty severe pacing problems. It started out quite funny and moved along pleasantly. However, the middle dragged terribly, and by the time the speedy third act came together, it was just too late. In fact, when they confront the machine head on, the movie becomes so rapid fire and absurd that it feels almost like a completely different movie.

There were some funny moments in the movie. Andy Samberg's role as Baby Brent, a former child star and spokesperson for the town made me laugh, and the relationship between Flint and Sam Sparks (the reporter) was endearing and even a little identifiable. The main problems with the movie were just consistency, both in style and in the story itself.


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