I have the worn and tattered children's book by my side as I write this review. It was one of my all-time favorite books as a child. Some nights as I stared at the strange bubbling casserole my mom had just made, I wished I were in the land of Chewandswallow. A land where (good) food fell from the sky.
In the original story of 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,' two children are told a tall tale by their grandpa about a land where there are no food stores, a land where people wait for their next meal by holding out plates and hoping something falls on them. At breakfast time, a storm front of eggs and bacon would push across the city, lunchtime would see showers of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and dinnertime would consist of spaghetti and meatballs falling like manna from heaven.
Sony Animation has taken that classic story and turned it into a movie so fun and so subtlety clever that 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' can be put up there with some of the Pixar films.
In order to flesh the story out a bit more, Sony opted to can the storytelling grandpa in order to tell a feature-length story. Swallow Falls is nestled on an island off the coast of America, conveniently placed under the letter "A" in "Atlanic" on the map. Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) has always wanted to be a great inventor, but his inventions seem to always go awry. That includes an out of control flock of "rat-birds," (exactly what they sound like) that have a penchant for picking up children and flying away with them.
Swallow Falls had been living the high life when the sardine business was booming, but now, since the world has realized sardines are "super gross," the town has been plunged into a state of economic disarray.
Flint, spurred on by the plight of his town, invents a machine that can make food from water. After a mishap trying to get the machine to work, and after ruining the town's opening of their newest attraction, the machine shoots up into the sky and out of sight.
Then it starts to rain cheeseburgers!
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' isn't a hum-drum kiddie CGI flick that you'll be sleeping through while your kids laugh. This is one of the most cleverly written and animated films of the year. There are so many subtle jokes, and witty one-liners, that parents may end up having a better time watching this movie than their kids. Flint invents a monkey thought translator that he puts on his pet monkey Steve (STEVE!). It's funny, because Steve isn't smart like most animal sidekicks. His inner thoughts consist of "lick, lick, lick." For some reasons he loves mustaches. I was cracking up over Christmas break when I looked into the backseat of my brother-in-law's van to see my little 5 year-old niece reaching across the seat to her brother saying, "Muusssstache…" as she tried to grab imaginary facial hair.
Man, this movie is funny. It's full of clever details (If you were making snow angels in ice cream, wouldn't you make them face first?). There's colorful animation and some zany and loveable characters. I know I've spoken out about big name actors doing voice work for films, and that kids couldn't care less about it. I stand by that statement, but here even though there are some big names, they seem to be people that actually put some feeling and acting into their voices. There are no A-List stars here, but Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, and James Caan all do wonderful work with the parts they're given.
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' will require repeat viewings to catch all of its little nuances and slightly off-screen jokes, but everything about it is so fun and enjoyable that you won't mind watching it again and again.
The 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer on this release looks exactly as you'd hope. This is near perfection. 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' was purposefully given a more cartoony look, and it works here. Colors are bright and vivid. Blacks are nice and deep, and delineation is as revealing as ever. Fine detail is one of the many highlights of this video presentation. The food falling from the sky is so detailed that you think you could pick it right off the screen and start eating it. The CG animation is perfectly rendered, with each and every scene nearing the ever-elusive demo-worthy quality. While Pixar films like 'Up' may indeed be more detailed in their animation, there's nothing here - except for some ever-so-slight banding - that keeps this release from perfection. This is definitely one you'll want to use to show off your HD.
The DTS-MA 5.1 lossless audio track brings just about as much to the table (pun intended) as the AVC-encoded video. Engaging throughout, this soundtrack is full of fun and exciting effects that whirl around the surround channels. As gigantic food rains down, the surround channels are rarely at rest. LFE is plentiful when giant meatballs and corn cobs land with thunderous thuds on top of buildings. Dialogue is never drowned out up front, even with all the action going on around you. This soundtrack is every bit as entertaining and engulfing as those created for Pixar Blu-rays like 'Up' and 'Monsters, Inc.'
Some may be slightly disappointed to learn there is no 3D option available here. It's OK though, because this movie was one of the first that I've seen that didn't use any really stupid 3D gimmicks like the paddle ball flying at the screen in 'Monsters vs. Aliens.' There's no time when you'll be able to tell if something was made especially for 3D.
A bunch of high-def trailers are included. 'Hachi: A Dog's Take,' 'Open Season 3,' 'Planet 51,' Open Season, (the underappreciated!!) The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep,' 'Open Season 2,' 'Surf's Up,' 'Monster House,' and 'Daddy Day Camp.'
Sure, Pixar is still king of the CGI world, but they may have some competition if Sony keeps putting out quality titles like 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.' This is such a cleverly delightful movie, with stellar audio and video presentations, that it's a must own for families, and highly recommended for everyone else. Its infinite rewatchability value just solidifies the deal. Pick this one up!