Sunday, October 04, 2009

Movie Log: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs bears very little resemblance to the book on which its supposedly based, but that was only to be expected; the original book is less a story than a shaggy-dog tale without a punchline, and could have sustained a five-minute movie at most. The film that did result is full of obvious morals and Hollywood beats, but it's also much better -- and, most importantly -- substantially funnier -- than I expected. (The book is good at what it does -- it's almost certainly a better picture book than the movie is as a movie -- but it didn't make a particularly promising basis for a feature film.)

And so the movie has a young hero who doesn't fit in; he wants to invent things, but they never work out right. He also has a father who doesn't understand him, and wants him to join the family business (dull and faintly disgusting, as required). There's a golden boy in the town, who always outshines him. So far, so typical.

And, in fact, the beats of Cloudy follow formula pretty closely. The joys of this movie -- and it does have joys, actually -- lie first in the visual wonder of it. The modern 3-D processes are remarkably good, and Cloudy makes good use of them without flinging things straight out from the screen too often. It also follows the common style of having very cartoony human figures in essentially photo-realistic backgrounds, and that works quite well. Another joy is that it's visually and verbally funny a lot of the time -- the plot might be out of Screenwriting 101, but the dialogue is specific and right, and performed by an energetic, happy cast.

There's also one moment -- in which our hero coaxes his weather-girl almost-girlfriend into putting her glasses on and pulling her hair back into a scrunchie, then says something to the effect "You were pretty before, but now you're gorgeous!" -- that won Cloudy a lot of ground in my book. It's a movie that can twist the obvious in a telling and funny way, and a movie that deeply feels the appeal of geeky girls.

This won't play nearly as well at home, on a small screen and without the immersive quality of 3-D. But it will still be a solid movie for kids then, with that very common moral that it's still good to reinforce: you have to do what you're passionate about doing, no matter what other people say. It's not really a movie for adults without kids, but all movies can't be for all people, can they?

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