Movies: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

When we saw the trailer for this movie, I was intrigued but skeptical. How could they make a feature-length movie from a picture book that barely has a plot? Even the book, at 32 pages long, was too long for me. Its premise is highly original, and the story is mildly entertaining – the first time. My sons (at periods seven years apart due to their ages) wanted it read over and over, but when they couldn’t find the book on the shelf I never bothered to point out where it was.

 Perhaps the best description I’ve read of the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is “manic.” It seems as though some people brainstormed all the ways they could turn the story into a movie, and then decided to do all of them at once. There are some genuinely entertaining aspects to the movie, but it’s harder to appreciate them when there is so much going on that doesn’t fit together well.

It’s a story about two nerds finding out that it’s OK – even good – to be brainy. It’s about finding you can do something well when hardly anyone believed you could. Except that what you did well turned out to be a disaster. Or maybe that was only because of the greedy mayor, who is an object lesson in Big is not always Better. Or maybe it’s about a father and son who don’t understand each other. And it’s about not living in the past (though “Baby” Brent was overdone even more than the mayor).

I know a lot of people think the visuals are superb. I actually liked the opening and closing credits better than the movie as far as that’s concerned. With the capabilities of today’s CGI, I think it would have been fun to see realistic rather than cartoony food falling from the sky. If CGI movies can make water so convincing you think it’s real, imagine what they could do with the texture of meat loaf, or a banana.

The scene with the jello is an example of trying to do anything and everything possible with the book as a springboard. The book has one scene of a jello sunset, and the movie turns this into an extended scene where the two main characters get to have fun while getting to know each other. Somehow the jello is easily penetrated when you want to walk through it, yet resilient enough to jump on. And capable of being turned into a hair scrunchie?! Yet the jello has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.

The plight of a town stuck with no natural resources but sardines could make a good story. So could the nerdy inventor, the girl who loves meteorology but has been turned into an on-air image instead of a scientist, the man who longs for the glory days when he was the star of a TV commercial, the father and son who (almost literally) don’t understand each other – and of course the story of a strange town where food falls from the sky until the weather goes wrong and people have to start a new life elsewhere and learn how to buy food in supermarkets.

But putting them altogether into one movie doesn’t work so well – at least not for me.

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