Rewind Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is the rare film that can keep the energy, verve and humor of an animated short through the course of a feature film. It is also a prime example of the modern equivalent of irreverent humor which would be better described as “random,” which would be typified by television programming such as Family Guy and the works of Dan Schneider such as iCarly, The Amanda Show, etc. The film manages to be consistently funny in an off-the-wall kind of way, which is quite difficult.

Yet simultaneously it also managed to have the things you needed to move the story along and not just the novelty of the science. There was the love interest which was instantly established with witty dialogue which shows that Sam Sparks and Flint Lockwood are meant to be as she instantly realizes the purpose of all his wild inventions. There is of course the inevitable moment where Flint’s success breeds blindness and slight megalomania and causes him to mistreat his love, but what is refreshing is that their parting doesn’t unnecessarily extend the film. As might happen in reality the reconciliation happens nearly without words needing to be exchanged and there is no undue, overly-long apology.

The father-son dynamic is also an underpinning of this humorous and whimsical tale that doesn’t in and of itself add itself as an obstacle but rather adds texture to the tale and also serves as the device that makes Flint realize that his invention that has been causing it to rain food has gone wild.

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What drives Lockwood to lose perspective is pressure applied by Mayor Shelbourne, given life by Bruce Campbell in a very good role, who wants to use the machine to make Swallow Falls a tourist attraction and in the process he becomes morbidly obese. It would be a new claim to fame for the sardine fishing island which displaces ‘Baby’ Brent, the sardine mascot, who in his-mid thirties coasts on that fame and is one of the funniest characters in the film voiced by Adam Samberg of SNL fame.

While typically a voice cast should be invisible, meaning anonymous or unrecognizable in the part, the standout was someone who was distinctive and recognizable but yet managed to play a character and not a caricature. The local police officer Cal Devereaux played by Mr. T, yes that Mr. T, was one of the better characters and the funniest performance – and he didn’t even have to say “I pity the fool.” However, most of the cast was invisible as mentioned, case in point Neil Patrick Harris was Steve the monkey with the thought-translator strapped on which was just a small example of the random humor as well as Flint saying what he’s doing, vocalizing a fake score, or a face in the crowd saying something wild like “I’ve got a macaroni on my head” when that is the case.
The only thing in the film that gives you pause is that the camera man, Manny, is a walking deus ex machina. When someone capable of being a doctor and flying a makeshift plane is needed we learn that the man who has been there but unseen can do both these things. Even though it allows for one very good joke about how he was a doctor in Guatemala it was somewhat odd that he also had emergency supplies on him and then was also able to fly. In a film this irreverent it takes a lot to say “come on” but that did it.\

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With the pervasiveness of 3-D it hardly ever seems worth mentioning. In this film, however, that is not the case and it in fact enhanced the experience especially the scenes within the machine-turned-meatball which were rendered much more realistic and interesting due to the fact that they were in 3-D.

All in all it is a very enjoyable experience that far surpassed this critic’s expectations and speaking as one who was unfamiliar with the tale it is likely to entertain most.

8/10

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Review- Beastly

Mary-Kate Olsen and Alex Pettyfer in Beastly (CBS Films)

Beastly is the kind of film that’s not going to waste your time to help you decide whether or not you’re going to enjoy it. This film starts with such a ridiculous, unrealistic and disingenuous tone that my mind was made up almost in record time, however, there is a point its trying to make it just goes about trying to make it with the subtlety of a roundhouse kick to the jaw. There is not a piece of the dialogue or acting within the first few minutes that I believe for a second. Whether it be the over-the-top-look-at-me-I’m-a-modern-day-Dorian-Gray dialogue by the film’s protagonist Kyle (Alex Pettyfer), the incredibly crass ‘Embrace the Suck’ slogan and the preposterous Hey-I’m-A-Witch acting and cinematography revolving the film’s antagonist, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen).

That’s just a small sampling of the ridiculousness that ensues in this film right off the bat. It’s hard enough to sell an audience on a Beauty and the Beast plot in the modern day when you set the film up with this lack of realism. The witch comments really aren’t a throwaway. The film wants to waste no time and get right into it and it’s very obvious the outcast character, Kendra, is actually a witch but it sacrifices any semblance of realism to do so.

The dialogue never really sparkles but really struggles in this portion of the film such that it’s painful to listen to. It’s extraordinarily hard to understand, get behind and in any way identify with these characters.

Things do improve from this pathetic start, however, not nearly by enough. Not in the slightest. An example would be that while the makeup and prosthetic work is rather good when looked at in isolation, within the context of this narrative it fails the film also. It doesn’t do enough to camouflage who this kid really is, as the love interest Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) is supposed to not be able to recognize him. Not only that but it virtually screams who he is by scrolling the words “Embrace” and “Suck” where his eyebrows used to be.

As if this wasn’t enough there are the other instances where the film decides to try our patience and and think logically far too much. There is a long conversation between Kyle and Lindy at a party where they do not look at each other, there is the fact that structurally Kyle’s face is the same as is his voice yet he is never recognized or suspected and Lindy believes his cover until he’s healed.

Even some of the better touches are counteracted by miscalculations such as when Kyle is trying to woo Lindy, and is of course trying to pick meaningful rather than expensive gifts, he gets her a case of Jujy Fruits. Yet, “How did you know I liked these enough to get me ten?” is a question that is never asked.

The one thing that consistently raises the level of this film ever so slightly are some of the performances. Mainly that of Neil Patrick Harris in a supporting role where he does his best to add true comic relief to the film. That being said Alex Pettyfer is also better with a more believable American accent than in I Am Number Four, he just has a lot less material to work with.

There isn’t a lot in terms of redeeming qualities in Beastly, which is even more unforgivable when you’re building the story on a tried and true template and at times makes it an infuriating and frustrating experience. It is likely to go down as one of the worst of the year.

2/10