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'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs'
Computer-animated food storm: a comedy winner
Brian Orndorf (briano)     Print Article 
Published 2009-09-21 09:49 (KST)   
Using Judi and Ron Barrett셲 1978 book, 쏞loudy with a Chance of Meatballs, as inspiration, the big-screen adaptation takes off in its own direction, mixing clever cartoon timing with an Irwin Allen valentine, emerging as one of the strongest computer-animated efforts of the year.

Energetic and dripping with the sort of reference-heavy humor that rules the genre today, 쏮eatballs makes for a hilarious and mouth-watering sit. The hunger is dialed to impossible levels if viewed in 3-D.

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An aspiring inventor since he was a boy, Flint Lockwood (voiced by the great Bill Hader) is looking for an invention that will change the world, helping him to deal with life on the dreary fishing island of Swallow Falls.

A broken community, reeling from the closure of the local sardine cannery, Swallow Falls is in need of a dietary change, urging Flint to finish his greatest invention: a device that turns water into food.

Accidentally launching his prize into the sky, Flint finds the machine raining junk food down from the clouds, much to the delight of the locals and shifty Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell). Encouraging the national media attention is amateur weather reporter Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), who finds she has more in common with Flint than just interest in the climate.

While the town셲 fortune radically changes due to the food storms, it셲 only a matter of time before danger rises, putting Flint on a quest to salvage his invention and what셲 left of his good name.

Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are known for their work on the MTV cartoons series 쏞lone High, which might be the proper introduction to the tone of 쏮eatballs. While not drowning in irreverence, the film still retains a razor-sharp spark of comedic discovery, treading the same Adult Swim waters favored by younger animators working today.

The cheery, satiric tone infuses 쏮eatballs with a mischievous spirit and blends with the more traditional heartfelt beats of the story. This making for a familiar animated event that is spiked with laughs, that stays within the boundaries of the expected but slinks away, here and there, to freshen up an often unbearably predictable genre.

The invitation for food-based mayhem is treasured by the filmmakers, who create a visual feast that셲 elastic enough to appease slapstick fans (the picture often resembles a monster-budgeted Looney Tunes short), but also develop a sumptuous visual scheme that toys with inventor constructs, epic (edible) meteorological events, and rowdy community chaos.

The animation is a tremendous effort, creating a full-bodied environment for Swallow Falls and an imposing one for the weather sequences, where hamburgers, spaghetti, and corn rain down from the sky.

The 3-D augments the work splendidly, lending depth to the tasty tempest, bringing the spread of deliciousness to the tip of your nose. But it also helps to emphasize the disaster-movie tributes in the last act, when the miracle turns unstable and over-sized food arrives from the heavens to destroy the town.

쏮eatballs is colorfully swirled and silly, rivaling Pixar셲 best efforts with its luxurious and meticulous glow. It셲 a wonderful picture, but also a feature one would appreciate with the sound off, showcasing extraordinary animation that understands the delicate marriage between cozy cartoon and big screen spectacle.

The voice casting also plays a vital role in 쏮eatballs.

Hader and Faris make enchanting romantic partners, as each performer is able to quickly bounce from playful to panic. Hader셲 earnest quiver as Flint offers an agreeable innocence as well.

The fun doesn셳 stop there, with Bruce Campbell, Lauren Graham (as Flint셲 mother), Andy Samberg (clowning it up as the grown-up, yet still quite infantile, Coppertone Baby-style icon of Swallow Falls), Benjamin Bratt (as Sam셲 all-purpose Guatemalan cameraman), and Mr. T (portraying the local overzealous cop) joining the party. Yes, Mr. T, and he셲 pitch-perfect in the role.

The third lead is James Caan, playing Flint셲 doubting father. He portrays a simple, sardine man who watches as his son creates baffling scientific wonders. While the father-son dynamic is a syrupy device intended to force-feed some sentiment into the story -- often dropped into the proceedings without the proper emotional lubrication -- Caan셲 reading of generational bewilderment is authentic.

The exaggerated character design has him portrayed as burly man with features hidden behind thick bushes of facial hair. Caan captures a knowing parental stance, somewhere between shame and pride. The ensemble is perfect, filling 쏮eatballs with a rich vocal representation that makes the highly absurd premise believable and consistently hilarious.

As the fortune of Swallow Falls spirals out of control (yes, obesity is discussed), 쏮eatballs explodes with action and absurdity, reaching for an impossible summit of hysteria that features Flint and the gang trying to stop the invention as the residents float away from danger on over-sized sandwiches. It셲 the closing act on a magnificently executed comic fantasy.

After watching a parade of hamburger hail, ice cream snowball fights, and Jell-O kingdoms, the film is sure to leave viewers starving upon exit. Armageddon never looked so delicious.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Brian Orndorf

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