Thursday, 28 January 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

(Part of Animation Month)

Recent works by Pixar and Dreamworks are credited with revitalising family entertainment. The consensus is that they provide something for Mum and Dad and something for the kids. In my experience, though, parents and children are watching parallel films. Gentle innuendo and hip cinemat
ic in-jokes fly over the children's heads and pander only to the childish, and not the childlike, in adults.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the first film by Sony Pictures Animation, welcomes all on the same terms, pitched perfectly to challenge children to rise to its wit and tempt their parents to wallow in old-fashioned 'what do you want in your sandwiches', 'pack your pyjamas' adventure. This is Fantastic Voyage, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Hansel and Gretel rolled into one. Most importantly we feel like we've been somewhere. We've been on a journey. It is clever, funny and fun and a shared family experience in more than just name.

It has its drawbacks, however. The film tends to follow the path of least dramatic resistance in its story threads of approval, acceptance and love. Things are followed through right to the limits of the logical, conventional conclusion. All are redeemed and reunited and a charming friendship can only turn to love. It is not only that we know what will happen but that it is ladeled on too thick; albeit if you're surrounded by hills of ice cream it's hard to begrudge a little sugary sweetness.

These are issues that I have long had, and more entrenched, with Pixar. Part of it comes down to a patronising anti-intellectual attitude to an audience that needs to be beaten over the head with mawkishly sound-tracked lessons. Part of it comes down to the computer animation itself. The characters' hard plastic faces necessitate broad emotional strokes with subtlety an inevitable casualty.

Nevertheless these qualms can be no more than nitpicks in the case of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to be soon buried under a mound of spaghetti bolognese.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a mouthful of gob-stoppers, a boxful of custard doughnuts, a big bright bananas shower of jelly babies.

This isn't A Grand Day Out where Wallace and Gromit want just a sliver cheese for their tea. This is out and out chaos and mighty appetising it is too despite the hints (and thankfully these hints never develop into anything more) at the dangers of greed. It is a vividly imagined foodscape, full of the details that betray a work conceived with love.* From time to time it may have been better served exercising a little moderation but when you're surrounded with all you can eat it's hard not to stuff your face.

*To be sure this is a film full of ideas big and small but I would like to have seen something about the world-changing nature of this water-into-food invention. Maybe, given Flint's heroes on his bedroom wall, it would have been apt to have a little less me me me crazy inventor and a little more of that idealistic man of science.


  1. W & G are a favorite.

    We had wanted to see this film, but since it was Pixar, we decided to pass it by. As you mentioned, the sugary aspect of what may have been showing on the screen, kept us away.

    I read the book to my son when it came out, and the illustrations were enjoyed by us both. That might be another reason I decided to skip it.

    Since I'm interested in books in many forms and this has some animation, have you seen this:

    The accent is a bit hard to understand, but I really like this and would have paid to see many short films like this.


    PS: is there anything else out there we may have missed, that's as good as Paranoia Agent? Thanks............

  2. Coffee Messiah, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is NOT a Pixar film (I've altered my piece to make it more obvious). It's by Sony Pictures Animation.

    I will reiterate too that it is a good, enjoyable film despite its 'flaws'.

    I really liked that video. Thanks very much. It relates in some way to what I wrote about before - animation and books.

    I've never liked Wallace and Gromit as much as other people, despite me being British and W&G being so (stereo)typically, and sometimes charmingly, British.

    Have you seen 'Memories'? It's a film of three episodes one of which is directed by Akira director Katsuhiro Otomo. It's good, weird, interesting.

  3. Yikes, sorry, sometimes the obvious, isn't seen in the haste to keep moving ; (

    W & G seemed to be fresh for a lot that was seen out here many years ago and a breath of fresh air, despite the stereo typing. Seems no one escapes that, ironically.

    Have not seen Memories and will seek it out.

    Thanks & Cheers!

  4. My pleasure Coffee Messiah and please tell me if you manage to see some of the other animations I've written about.

    As for being in a hurry, haste makes me make some terrible errors when commenting on people's blogs.

  5. Oh, I thought this would turn out to be one of those uninspiring products of the industry. Pleasantly surprised to see that isn't so. I believe this one was in 3D. How good was it?

  6. It's one of the better 'products' of the computer animation industry. I'd say between good and very good, though I didn't see it in 3D.