Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs was one of my favorite books growing up. When I heard about the film adaptation I was more than a little worried that another piece of my childhood was about to get dragged through the studio muck, stripped of its soul, and stuffed with needless pop culture references. Then I noticed that it wasn't being produced by Dreamworks and my fears ebbed...a little. The trailer revealed my worst fears: the animation looked nothing like the illustrations, and the plot and characters from the book were completely replaced. How could this not suck?

Then along came Keith Phipps' review, which restored a glimmer of hope. I've now seen it, and what can I say - sometimes the studio gets it right.

The movie only vaguely resembles the book, taking the premise and abandoning pretty much everything else. But the new characters and plot are fantastic in their own right. CWACOM is an irreverent, subversive, action-packed celebration of geekery. It's as if the filmmakers made a movie for themselves, and if any kids happened to enjoy it that was fine too.

The story is basically about a geeky kid who grows up to be a nutty inventor (Bill Hader), tinkering away in his elaborate treehouse/laboratory. One day he invents a device that converts water into any food you want, one thing leads to another, and suddenly hot dogs are raining from the sky. Throw in a greedy mayor desperate for tourist dollars, and you have a formula for zany shenanigans. Along the way he teams up with a hyperactive police officer (Mr. T), an amateur weather girl (Anna Faris), and a talking monkey. Bruce Campbell, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan, Benjamin Bratt, and Andy Samberg are also featured.

There are some very good messages thrown in for the kids about healthy eating, and being true to yourself. But none of it is heavy handed. Mr. T never explicitly tells kids to eat their greens, but the message is there. There are also some great scenes where the inventor encourages the weather girl to be herself after he catches her willfully acting dumb. He even gives her an anti-makeover, having her wear the glasses she usually hides, and putting her hair in a pony tail. I think it's a positive scene for young girls to see, and it's a nod to all the guys in the audience who appreciate geeky girls.

The story is fast paced, and the jokes come with frequency and often hit to some degree. It's one of the funniest movies I've seen all summer, and (dare I say) more entertaining overall than Up. I hope I haven't offended the animation gods by saying that. Both movies garner jokes from animals talking with electronic voice boxes, but CWACOM spreads it's humor out a bit more. There are more characters to enjoy, and the pathos isn't as overwhelming. It's simply more fun. (Again, I bow to Pixar, and all that she has given us. Always.)

I highly recommend this movie to anyone. I would say it's almost more fun for the adults than the kids. Also, I saw it in 3D, which definitely looks marvelous, but probably isn't necessary if you want to save a few bucks.

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