Title: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Genre(s): Animation, Comedy, Family
Director(s): Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Release Year: 2009
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Pixar has been the staple of animation, with their films always being lauded as better than the previous ones (in terms of animation, Cars 2 and Brave were not better than the rest of their films, I know). Dreamworks Animation has definitely been doing an excellent job at rivaling Pixar, but one company has been out there attempting to do some excellent work and that’s Sony Pictures Animation. While not boasting the most films in their repertoire, they’ve done some huge films like The Smurfs and Open Season, and more recently The Pirates! Band of Misfits and Arthur Christmas. Their animation is almost always great, but the films themselves rarely end up critically praised by viewers, often becoming more like kiddie fare than anything else (with the exception of the two recent efforts mentioned). A film that perhaps doesn’t receive the amount of appreciation it should is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs that came out in between two straight-to-DVD releases, and may very well be one of the best animated films released, topping the animations of even the behemoths that are Pixar.
Based on the children’s book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs follows Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), a guy who just wants to make his town, once famous for their sardines before the cannery closed down, famous again. From a young age he has invented many devices that always went wrong in some way, whether it be a hybrid animal of rat and bird (“Ratbirds”), a hair-unbalder, or shoes that simply spray on your feet. His most recent invention mutates water into food, showcased in the raining of cheeseburgers. The premise is ridiculous, and the fact that Flint figures out a way to make it rain whatever food he wants is hard to believe, but this movie relishes (no pun intended) on its absurd plot. The humor is very much an encapsulation of the style used in Saturday Night Live skits, and the film even hosts three cast members from the show (Hader, Andy Samberg, and Will Forte) who lend their voices to this hilarious film. The movie is never afraid to shy away from a joke that the audience might not get, referencing other movies in its animation, or even just making callbacks to previous inventions or situations in the film (the “ratbirds” make a recurring appearance throughout).
This can all be attributed to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who both wrote and directed the film, and who I first enjoyed with this year’s 21 Jump Street, a film that definitely owes a lot to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ visual direction and absurd humor. The two are powerhouses when it comes to this style of comedy, but they are also able to write a cohesive story that can be both ludicrous and heart-warming at the same time. Flint is completely and utterly selfless, never doing anything for himself, and although him and his father (voiced by James Caan) have a hard time bonding, you can tell there’s a relationship there that is waiting to blossom again. Even the romance sub-plot between Flint and Sam (Anna Faris) is handled well, only coming to the forefront of the film in one memorable Jell-o sequence, allowing the film to satisfy the basic Hollywood film tropes while poking fun at those same tropes.
What really makes this movie excellent though, is the animation. There’s so much happening on screen at various points in the film, that it’s hard to believe how it was achieved with such fluidity and detail. To be honest, the art style wasn’t for me when the movie came out, and that’s why I was never really interested, but once you get used to how the characters look, you’ll forgive their very animated looks and only watch the animations. For a movie where food rains from the sky, it is very important that it contain some incredibly gorgeous shots. But there’s even small little details like Flint’s hair blowing in the wind when someone makes a lot of movement near him, or just the way the clouds move and keep their shape that make the film so beautiful to look at. It’s hard to remember a time when I was so engrossed by a film’s animation, with perhaps the only other really well-animated film coming to mind being Rango (once again, not a Pixar film, but incredible nonetheless).
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a visual masterpiece, that may not be the deepest of films, with it still catering to a family friendly audience, trying to walk the line between adult and childish humor, but there’s something so endearing about the movie. The tale of a selfless hero is always one to enjoy, but it really is the art style and animation that make this film the whimsical experience that it is. Whether this is my favourite animated film, I do not know, but I would be hard-pressed to find a movie that has more beautifully animated sequences than this, and I definitely look forward to Lord and Miller’s upcoming Lego film as well as anything else they attach themselves to.