Lowdown: A nerd invents a machine that showers food from the sky, but then has to face the consequences.
Upon presenting the DVD box of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to my three year old he immediately expressed his will to watch it. Why? Because “it has the same child from [How to Train Your Dragon]”. Note we are talking here of films coming from two different studios (Sony and DreamWorks, respectively); which goes to teach you that in this age of computer animated films targeting children, being formulistic goes way beyond the conventional meaning of sticking to a prescribed plot. Nowadays it goes even as far as making everything look the same.
After watching the film I can go even further and report product placement, too (most noticeably for the Jell-O brand). Yes, taking your kids to the cinema today and/or letting them watch a film at home carries with it more than just an artistic experience: you’re also making sure they grow to become good conformist consumers. Isn’t that great!
There is a film behind this exercise in commercialism, and that film is not too bad. We quickly follow a nerd inventor guy from childhood to his adulthood to learn he was and still is socially reclusive, finding more comfort in his inventions than real people. No one likes him, either. Then he comes up with a new invention, another one in a series of many that don’t work as intended: a machine that generates food out of water. That machine behaves more like a rocket and flies up to the sky, but from there it is able to rain down food – the food that our inventor asks it to shower down.
Here commences the more imaginative part of the film as it plays along with the different types of food falling from the sky in all shapes and sizes. Hygiene is not a problem in cartoon world, so we’re in for a treat! From now on you can imagine how things will progress using the regular [unlikely hero film] formula: there is a crisis, there is a good looking girl, and the rest is nothing we haven’t seen before.
There is a lot to be said for films where bacon and ice cream take such a prominent position as they do in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. There is also the bonus of having the Mr T (aka BA Burekas) dubbing one of the characters, even though that policeman character is made over ridiculous (and I don’t mean by the fact it actually protects our hero in a time of need).
Best scene: The Gummi Bears turn nasty on our heroes. By taking something we associate with sweetness and turning it nasty Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs went a long way in my book.
Worst scene: We’ve discussed the overly commercial and formulistic nature of the affair, but it goes even further into stereotyping land. The stereotype at hand is the nerdish one, and the scene to blame is the one where the hot chick “reveals” her true nerd nature by collecting her hair in a knot and wearing her eyeglasses. So this is it, Hollywood? Nerds are always doomed to ugliness and good lookers are always doomed to dumbness? I have seen my fair share of stereotyping on the big screen, but here the polarization is so clear the scene should be classified as damaging to young children’s brains.
Technical assessment: Another computer animation DVD with a relatively disappointing picture. The sound is not to bad, but nothing overly exciting.
Overall: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs lacks the adult appeal many of its compatriots from the land of Pixar are so abundant with. On the positive side, it is very imaginative. I would therefore rate it at 2.5 out of 5 stars.