With a sea of animated movies that hit in 2009, it’s no wonder that a few didn’t blow away moviegoers and box office records like Ice Age 3 or Up. Although by no means a box office failure, the Sony produced Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs received only a small iota of press and publicity when it came to theaters in September of 2009. While many wondered how the favorite children’s classic could be stretched into a full length feature, it was soon proven by writer and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller that the feat was something easily accomplished with the wonderful and unique world coming alive in an hour and a half animated film that was as entertaining and heartwarming as the original book itself.
When Flint Lockwood’s (Bill Hader) latest contraption accidentally destroys the town square and rockets up into the clouds, he thinks his inventing career is over. Then something amazing happens as delicious cheeseburgers start raining from the sky. His machine actually works! But when people greedily ask for more and more food, the machine starts to run amok, unleashing spaghetti tornadoes and giant meatballs that threaten the world! Now it’s up to Flint, with the help of weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) and Steve, his talking monkey assistant, to find some way to shut down the machine before the world is covered in super-sized meatballs!
At an hour and a half it may seem like this premise of meatballs in the sky could get old after awhile but before you know it you’ll be at the end of the film. It’s incredible how fast this film just flies by when you sit down to watch it. It’s light and airy and it’s so fast paced both in terms of story and dialogue that you can’t help but be caught up in it from the very beginning. It’s definitely a film that kids would enjoy, but adults would be hard pressed not to bet caught up in the antics of Flint and Sam.
What also helps the film is its eclectic and never-ending cast of characters. From the mayor voiced by Bruce Campbell to the police officer voiced by Mr. T, the cast is ever-expanding it seems and always entertaining. While stunt casting is often a dubious choice when it comes to animated films, everyone in this film really did a remarkable job. Hader and Farris in the title roles were flawless and the supporting cast of Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Lauren Graham, Will Forte, and James Caan was pitch-perfect as well. Some of the voices you recognized immediately and others it took awhile to catch on to (I never did catch on that Harris was in the movie until I watched the end credits).
The story itself is pretty well known among children’s book readers, but the expansion of it that Lord and Miller were able to add onto it is really quite fantastic. Most remarkable of all is none of the additional story felt “tacked on” in the least. It was updated and modernized with technology of today’s world, but other than that the film felt quite organic, never really taking any grandiose leap from where it began. I mean the film itself is about a device that causes food to fall from the sky—it’s kind of hard to say that taking an airplane up to deactivate it while a talking monkey battles gummy bears is really any stranger. Well that gummy bear stuff was pretty weird…especially when they started switching bodies and heads. Crazy stuff.
But where the film really shined, for me, was its animation. It’s overly simple in presentation, but underneath its exaggerated character models and stylized visuals is a ton of detail and visual beauty that really just blows you away. While there are the usual locations, vehicles, and whatnot littering the screen at any given time, its sequences like the aforementioned final fight to the giant house/whatever made of Jello that really stood out to me. Both just the visuals of the place as well as how the characters interacted with the environment was just really quite an astonishing sight to behold; plus when you watch it on Blu-ray it just looks amazing anyway.
Overall Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs likely won’t win any awards for animated film of the year, but it’s definitely something that shouldn’t be overlooked. The story is light and entertaining, characters are charming, and the animation is just a wonderful sight to behold. It’s a straightforward love story in essence, both in terms of parental and romantic, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch regardless. Recommended.
Sony releases Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in a standard Elite Blu-ray two-disc case. Included is the film on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital-copy (PSP only) all housed onto the two discs. Inserts include ones advertising the Blu-ray format as well as an insert that includes the PSP digital copy redemption code. What’s rather interesting about the PSP digital copy is it requires you to have a PS3 as well, which is…kind of obnoxious in its complexities, but whatever. Extras are rather plentiful, although most are small games or overly cutesy extras that will make adults cringe.
Video arrives in the form of an AVC encoded transfer that is very, very jaw-dropping. The colors alone are enough to make your eyes pop out of your sockets, but the environmental detail is simply stunning as well. There is an overall smoothness to the whole picture as none of the characters themselves boast any kind of incredible detail (it’s mostly just the environments – and food – that pop off the screen), but the end result is a pretty much flawless transfer that looks gorgeous from start to finish (although the finish is a bit dark, so it’s not quite as vibrant as the start…but still great looking, nonetheless).
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and as can be expected from a comedic action film as this…there’s plenty of surround usage. Subwoofer is very active from the very start of the film and the surrounds are rather relentless during the action sequences (as well as the previously mentioned Jello bit). It’s definitely a strong mix and if half of the films enjoyment comes from the zany visuals, then the varied and eclectic soundtrack is without a doubt the other half. Overall a stunning mix and one that will definitely stick with you.
Directors’ Commentary with Lord, Miller, and Hader
Interactive “Splat” Button (Throw Food at the Screen While You Watch the Movie!)
A Recipe for Success: The Making of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (10:51, 1080p)
Key Ingredients: The Voices of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (12:39, 1080p)
Flint’s Food Fight Game – Enhanced for Blu-ray
Extended Scenes (2:37, 1080p, two scenes)
Early Development Scenes (5:47, 1080p)
Progression Reels with Introductions by Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Bredow (5 total, 1080p)
Interactive “Raining Sunshine” Sing-A-Long (3:45, SD)
“Raining Sunshine” Music Video by iCarly’s Miranda Cosgrove (3:45, SD)
Behind the Scenes of Miranda Cosgrove’s “Raining Sunshine” Music Video (2:17, SD)
Make It Rain Food (0:32, 1080p)
Adults will take notice of the commentary, making-of, and the progression reels and…well, that’s it. The remainder of the extras are kid-focused (with a little too much focus on that music video…seriously, three separate features?) and will likely bore anyone else but. Still, the commentary is a delight to listen to, not only because all three participants are steadfast fans of the original book, but also because they detail all the little elements of the film, from the early production to the voice work to the finalization of the picture. Overall the extras are pretty lacking, but the commentary is a ton of fun to listen to.
Overall this is a solid set and one that comes Recommended. The A/V transfer is absolutely brilliant and while the extras are a bit mediocre, the rest of the disc is well worth watching. Plus you’ll likely want to watch this film over and over and over…
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on January 5th.