Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

It's surprisingly how good animated kid's movies are these days, as adult entertainment. It makes me feel good to know that kids who are falling in love with these movies will get to go back to them when they're grown-ups and find that they're just as good as they remember, or better, the same way The Phantom Tollbooth was for me (and A Wrinkle In Time was disappointingly not). Even so, I didn't expect that much from Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs since the premise seemed thin (and it turns out to come from a very slender book), and the trailers were only mildly promising.

I was quite surprised by how clever and inventive the movie actually was, and how often it was able to catch me unprepared. I'm not exactly a jaded moviegoer, but I'm certainly an experienced one; I usually see jokes, plot twists, and character traits coming well before they arrive (but still appreciate them when they get there, which is why I'm not jaded). Even the most amusing and well-done children's movies, like Finding Nemo, rarely surprise me. But Cloudy caught me totally off guard many times with jokes I didn't expect, connections between plot elements that didn't seem likely to connect, and reactions I didn't expect to have.

One good example that won't spoil anything is that the entire story is set on a tiny island that is hidden under the A in "Atlantic Ocean".

There were some bits that didn't work that well. The movie engages in a bit of ham-handed (pun intended) moralizing about overeating that could have been better done as a general theme of "sometimes having it too easy too good isn't a good thing" -- and they flirted with that aspect, but too often they went for the cheap-and-easy shot instead. While they usually did a great job with using the incongruity of random pieces of food falling out of the sky (and everyone being blasé about it) to punctuate other scenes, there were times when it got out of hand. There was a "former child star" character who almost managed to become a good object lesson for the hero (giving him a chance to see his own future fate), but instead, just got to be a cheap joke and a not-particularly-potent, and fairly predictable, storyline at the end. A few of the actors seemed underutilized, compared to others who got used more than seems warranted by either the quality of the actor, or the potential of the character. Once or twice the pacing felt off.

But in between those moments was an entire movie full of great visuals, engaging characters, enough (admittedly hokey and predictable) action sequences to keep the plot moving, clever gags, a few nice lessons, and a lot of really funny moments, many of whom come at you from around a corner when you're not prepared for them. So I definitely recommend the movie.

(I didn't see it in 3D, and I don't know how well that would have worked, how much difference it would have made.)

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