Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs ***
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Just when it seemed that the computer animated market had been divided between the brilliant, timeless masterpieces of Pixar and the moneymaking, ludicrous pop exploitations of Dreamworks Animations here comes Sony Pictures with a movie that's quite a treat.
Based on the children's book by Judi Barrett and Don Barrett, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is a delightful satire that takes the best from both animated moguls' visions.
It tells the story of Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) a scientist living in a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic known for its sardine industry.
All of his life he tried hard to create things that would make people's lives easier, but after failing constantly he finds his opportunity when the sardine industry dies.
People are left eating the remains of their unsold production and the whole town becomes sad and dull, "life became gray" as one of the characters say.
Flint comes up with a machine that transforms water molecules into any food you want (everyone wants junk food of course) and accidentally he aims at the sky causing a hamburger rain to come down and put smiles on people's faces.
Soon he's the town celebrity and he takes requests from everyone to fill the sky menu, but as it usually happens with excess, things get bad before long.
The clever plot works as a satire in two remarkable ways; children will notice that none of the foods featured include liver, soup or Brussels sprouts, instead the town becomes flooded with ice cream, pizza and giant meatballs.
They might not understand the nods to extreme consumerism and world hunger that adults undoubtedly will, but they might think after the movie that maybe living in a house made out of cake isn't as good an idea as they thought...
Grownups on the other side will have a feast with all the movie references (which are not particularly about current pop culture events, but about B movies, Irving Allen disaster flicks and "The Wizard of Oz"), the intelligent take on how it's not so easy to fix world hunger and above all with the brilliant voice cast.
Hader headlines an ensemble that includes the wonderful Anna Faris, the incomparable James Caan and even Mr. T. They all deliver splendid work that creates characters instead of just lending their voices to them.
It's in their everyman-and woman-ness that the film strikes its most tuned chord. Sure it's also insanely funny, sweet and even features a very complex Oedipal, well, complex at the center of it all.
Most interesting of all is the depiction of a colorful world filled with perky TV hosts, ambitious politicians that rely on charisma to gain power, people without food and jobs and governments that distract their people with shiny attractions...
Not so far from the world we live in huh?