Although - as many people do - I generally prefer Pixar films to the animated fare created by other companies, I can't deny that a film like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is very hard not to love. Although it isn't particularly complex, thought-provoking, beautiful or masterful, it's a very entertaining, funny, cute-as-hell and effective animated film. Children with definitely love it, and adults... well, that actually depends on the adult in question. Although I certainly enjoy all kinds of movies, there's always - for me - some satisfaction to be had when watching something so obviously goofy and kiddy. Meatballs is kiddy, and that's precisely what I loved about it. It may not be this year's best animated movie - that honour goes to Pixar's Up - but it certainly is better than the likes of Monsters vs. Aliens.
The film tells the story of Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader), a young inventor who dreams of, someday, creating something that will be loved by everyone and make him more popular and, most importantly, improve the lives of everyone in town. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to do so, and his technofobic father (voice of James Caan) doesn't really help at all. One day, though, he manages to invent something that will change the lives of everyone in town forever: a machine that makes food fall from the sky. Everybody seems to be happy with him now - including mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell) and the by-the-book police offer, Earl (Mr. T) - but, predictably enough, something goes wrong: excess amounts of food start to overload the island where the town is located, and now Flint, along with TV reporter Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) has to try to solve their problem.
Yes, the plot is pretty predictable, and it certainly won't make anyone above the age of 5 be shocked with surprise or anything of the sort, but it certainly is very imaginative, and it should work in a very "oh, it's sort of nice" kind of way. I liked the way Flint was portrayed - Hader's wacky and not-so-recognizable voice is perfect for the character - and the fact that, although most characters are either archetypes or stereotypes - consider, for the example, Bruce Campbell's greedy and - eventually - obese mayor - they are all voice so professionally and characterized in such an naive and cute kind of way, that one just doesn't care. I rooted for Flint the whole way, and I actually thought that the romantic sub-plot between him and Sam was cute and funny.
Visually, I don't think the movie is on par to the likes of Wall-E or Up, but I think that comparing it to those productions would be a bit unfair. Wall-E had a sort-of realistic kind of look, and Up, while a little more cartoonish, had a very realistic flair to it. On the other hand, there's something very old-fashioned in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' look and the way it is animated. Characters behave and move the way old TV cartoons behaved forty or more years ago, and I like that. They jump a lot, are very "agile" and are just... cartoonish. Clearly, the animators didn't want the movie to give a palpable sense of realism; in a way, they were trying to craft an old-fashioned cartoon with the latest technological tools, and they have done it very successfully.
What else can I say about the movie? It certainly is very naive, and it doesn't explore any deep themes or moral problems, but that's just OK. While this year's mediocre Monsters vs. Aliens was terribly simplistic, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is just simple, and there's nothing wrong with that. Of course, there's nothing wrong with movies like Wall-E having very significant messages and complex love stories and such, but if a parent wants to go with their toddler to see a movie that isn't very complicated but that isn't stupid or boring either, then Meatballs is an excellent choice. After all, even if there isn't much beneath the surface, I can't imagine a single adult maintaining a straight face throughout the film's runningtime. The movie is hilarious, - just remember Flint's father's eyebrows! -, it's inventive, it's imaginative; it's also pretty gorgeous and it features some effective voice acting and interesting, wacky characters. It's not dumb and it doesn't pander to the least common denominator. Most interestingly, though, it made me hungry. That's not a quality many movies posses.
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