What’s up peeps? Oh, i’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure someone will see your inner beauty and accept you as a person. Would a guest review of a duo of food based animated movies cheer you up? Good because that’s exactly what you’re getting. This time i’m honoured to have Denis ‘D-Bag’ Mallon, an arty hipster who is the co-creator of this gem. He’s presenting a two for the price of one review of Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs and it’s sequel. Take it away Denis!
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 1 & 2
“It’s raining men!” sang The Weathergirls in 1982, “Halleluiah!”, ignoring the potentially gory and horrific practicalities of such a scenario. Despite their questionable credentials as storm experts, these ladies did much to ignite the imaginations of young fans of freak meteorological phenomena in the eighties – including myself. Rather than dreaming of manly hunks falling from the sky, though, it was culinary delights I hoped for: ice cream, flapjacks, chocolate digestives – I would hoover them up before they hit the ground, safe in the knowledge that morbid obesity was several decades away.
Clearly these dreams were shared by Judi and Ron Barrett, authors of the 1978 children’s book, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, adapted into an animated film in 2009, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (later to go on to direct 21 Jump Street and the upcoming Lego Movie).
CWACOM, as nobody calls it, features Flint Lockwood, a budding scientist who dreams of changing the world with his weird inventions. Living on the tiny island of Swallow Falls (situated “under the A in Atlantic Ocean”), he finds it hard to meet anyone to share his vision. When his latest invention causes cheeseburgers, hotdogs, ice cream, and other unlikely foodstuffs to rain from the sky, the phenomenon transforms the fortunes of the island and turns Flint into a local celebrity.
Early scenes in the film are quite heavy on well-trodden themes of following dreams and gaining parental acceptance. This bogs the film down somewhat, but it does start to pick up pace when the weird weather kicks in, becoming a bizarre sci-fi disaster epic towards the end.
What really grabs the attention in this film is the unique art direction – it’s clear that Sony Pictures Animation have worked hard to try and establish a distinctive style to try and stand out from the CGI crowd. Character design is truly brimming with creativity, while the textures and colour are excellently honed. While the food in particular is nearly photorealistic, the characters and environments are more reminiscent of kids TV cartoons like Ren and Stimpy, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Spongebob Squarepants, creating a nice contrast.
The humour, too, owes much to the surrealism in the likes of Spongebob, and also made me think of last year’s Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists. Consistently the film is peppered with visual gags and neat touches which give it a rich feel and add re-watch value.
I must admit I was unenthusiastic about the prospect of watching this film. The last ten years has seen an avalanche of animated CGI comedy in cinemas, but the creativity of early Pixar works has given way to a series of shallow and cliché ridden cartoons that seem to be more focused on selling colouring books than telling stories. CWACOM has enough imagination and charm to elevate it above the crowded market, and was a pleasant surprise.
“It’s Raining Men” was of course followed up with “No One Can Love You More Than Me”, which peaked at, er… number 26 in the US dance chart. Attempting to aim a bit higher with their 2013 follow up, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 picks up straight after the events of the first, joining an esteemed company of follow-on sequels such as Halloween 2, The Karate Kid Part II, and Quantum of Solace.
We re-join the gang on their island, where they are joined by Chester V, a famous technology magnate with more than a hint of the Steve Jobs about him. Chester invites them to come and join him in San Franjose, California, where Flint has been chosen to work for Chester’s company, Live Corp.
The first act zips along nicely, with plenty of the comic energy that made the first so funny. Flint’s time with Chester V on his cult-like Live Corp campus are a rich source of comedy and it’s fun to see how the original supporting characters do when transplanted to the big city.
Flint is soon called back to Swallow Falls to investigate weird goings on – only to discover his food machine has begun to create self-aware “foodimals”, food/animal hybrid creatures, such as Shrimpazees, Tacodiles, Pineappowls. He must decide what’s best for the island and whether Chester is as evil as his glow-in-the-dark beard would suggest.
The design of the foodimals continues the invention of the first movie, at times seeming like a fever dream of colour and weirdness, as well as a feast for pun fans. Although the gag rate stays pretty high, though, some of the supporting characters start to wear a bit thin and the story tails off into a fairly familiar territory towards the end.
All-in-all, this sequel is a worthy continuation of the first movie and will certainly be a hit with those who liked the original CWACOM, fans of weird food/animal hybrids, and perhaps even The Weathergirls themselves.
If you‘re a fan of low budget animation, be sure to take a look at a film I’ve made recently – Extinction! The Musical. It’s a bit rubbish, but then so was this review and you managed to get through it ok.