Grab the kids and head to the theater this Friday, September 18th, for a spectacular 3D feeding frenzy compliments of writers/directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord. Columbia Pictures’ and Sony Pictures Animation have joined forces with Miller and Lord (for their directorial debut) to bring us their take on the perennial favorite children’s book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
The original book is actually a story about a story. In it, two children listen with rapt attention as their grandfather spins the yarn of the legendary sardine town Chewandswallow where three times a day, food of every kind fell from the sky. The children delight in the idea, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous?” and recoil at the pitfalls, “What if we didn’t like what fell?” But no one asks how it came to be that food could fall from the sky – and whatever happened to the land of Chewandswallow? That is, until now…
This is the story of Flint Lockwood – the young and awkward but fiercely tenacious inventor who, after several disastrous attempts finally creates something that will save his one-food town from its monotonous torpor: a machine that turns water into food! When the machine is accidentally shot skyward, the celebration begins with restaurants opening their roofs to welcome a the falling food. As a hero and celebrity, Flint finds himself on top of the world! The townspeople adore him, the woman he loves takes notice and his loving, but none-too-sympathetic father may finally come around. So, with a heaping pile of food, fortune and fame at his feet, what could possibly go wrong? Put on your 3D glasses, have a seat and see for yourself!
- Written and Directed by: Chris Miller and Phil Lord (read interview)
- Produced by: Columbia Pictures’ and Sony Pictures Animation
- Adapted from: The 1978 book, of the same name, written by Judi Barret and illustrated by Ron Barrett.
- Voices: Bill Hader as Flint Lockwood (read interview) and Anna Faris as Sam Sparks (read interview) along with James Caan, Neil Patrick Harris, Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Al Roker, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt and Bobb’e J. Thompson.
- Visual Effects: Miller, Lord and digital supervisor Daniel Kramer can definitely add “detail oriented” to their resumes. You find yourself marveling at a mountainous Jello mold and a spaghetti cyclone just as you would with any live action adventure film out there. With a wink and a nod to such epic movies as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Twister and The Day After Tomorrow, Cloudy takes us on a wild and visually stunning ride that will hold the attention of both children and adults for the entire 87 minutes.
- Running time: In a theater half full of children – not one case of ants in the pants.
- Music Score: When Public Enemy and the Alan Parsons Project share the bill on a children’s film, you know you’ve got one creative team. With cheeky songs alongside grandiose 100 piece orchestra arrangements, Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo fame) knew precisely how to set the stage for a film that is at once both silly and epic.
- Voices: A well-cast group of some of today’s best comedic voices. It is nice to hear that Mr. T’s still got it after all these years and I applaud Neil Patrick Harris for his sense of humor and teamwork by playing a monkey.
- Dialogue: Clever and well delivered with plenty of humor for audiences of all ages.
- Plotline: The writers worked with the original book in an interesting way – one that defies comparison between the two. Instead of creating a direct or parallel adaptation, they focus on the part of the book that was never fully dramatized. Unlike many adaptations that co-opt the main narrative of an original story, Miller and Lord create more of a “spin-off” type scenario that compliments the original work very well.
- Tough shallow: If you’re looking for a deeply insightful children’s story or a moral tale with staying power – Cloudy will probably fall short. Yes, it modestly cautions the dangers of gluttony, greed and excess but its main function is to be a lighthearted and cinematic splendor , and this it delivers.
- Some gross scenes: I have nerves of steel, but the film could have done without the headless, plucked chickens. Most of the audience was silent during these parts leading me to think I was perhaps not the only one more disturbed than amused. They weren’t something that would traumatize a child, and they weren’t meant to be lovable, but they didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the film’s aesthetic.
- Needs the theater: It is definitely one of those movies that should be caught on the big screen because the entertainment value is rather tied up in its special effects – even outside of 3D.
- The 3D glasses hurt my nose.
- Don’t go see it hungry!
To sum it up in two words: Mission accomplished. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is not only a delight for audiences, it is a “filmmakers film” in many regards. Chris Miller and Phil Lord have solidly demonstrated their creativity, tenacity and pluck, and, while none of us are quite sure what the town of Chewandswallow has in store for it next, I see a zero percent chance of rain in this teams future.