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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/5/2010

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/27/2009

Animated films have been popular since their inception in the early part of the 20th century. But, the success of the Pixar films has really changed the animated feature film landscape. Suddenly, every major film studio had a partnership with a company which could produce computer generated animation -- Paramount has Dreamworks Animation, 20th Century Fox has Blue Sky, and despite the fact that Disney is affiliated with Pixar, Disney's own in-house animation studio began churning out CG films. Likewise, Sony/Columbia opened Sony Pictures Animation, but for some reason, their films don't get as much respect as the other companies. Their first film, Open Season, was a moderate box-office success, but a mediocre movie. 2007's Surf's Up, was my favorite animated film from that year and remains an under-rated gem. Their latest release, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, actually caught the public's attention, and continues a trend started by Surf's Up -- Anything goes.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is set on the small island of Swallow Falls, which is in the Atlantic Ocean. The island was famous for its sardine production, but once the world realized that sardines are gross, the island fell on hard times. Island native Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) has always loved science and has tried his entire life to be a successful inventor, and to please his father, Tim (voiced by James Caan). On the day that The Mayor (voiced by Bruce Campbell) is about to unveil Sardine World, Flint decides to test his latest invention, a machine which can convert water to food. The machine malfunctions and is launched into the atmosphere. Dejected due to his latest failure, Flint, along with his monkey, Steve (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris), meets Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris), a weather channel intern who had hoped that her assignment on Swallow Falls would be her big break. Suddenly, cheeseburgers begin to fall from the sky. Somehow, Flint's invention has begun to work! The residents of the island now love Flint, as he's able to make any food come from the heavens. The Mayor sees this as a chance to make the island a tourist attraction. But, as the machine grows more powerful, so do the portions. Will Flint be able to stop his invention?

For better or for worse, Pixar is the king of the mountain when it comes to computer generated animated films. And, again for better or for worse, they've put themselves in a position where, while their films are humorous, they also have a decidedly serious streak. I don't know if this was a conscience decision on their part, but Sony Pictures Animation's movies go in the opposite direction. While they aren't exactly irreverent, they dispense a brand of humor which shows a boundless, kinetic energy.

And it's this humor which makes Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs one of the year's best films. The basic plot, local misfit becomes popular, isn't very original, but the rest of the film stands apart from it's animated brethren for several reasons. First of all, the movie is silly without ever being stupid (and this is no small feat). Every scene is packed with jokes, and while it doesn't have a The Naked Gun vibe, it has that kind of pacing where if you don't like the current joke, then wait a few seconds because there will be another one. While the action is taking place in the foreground, there are often jokes in the background, be it a character doing something or the funny store names in the town. The humor runs the gamut from slapstick to clever dialogue to truly bizarre (the whole chicken thing during the finale is just weird). In doing this, the movie doesn't talk down to children. Again, the vibe of the film is very much like an adult comedy, but like so many "family" films today (I'm looking at you Dreamworks), the material never gets risque in any way. The movie also has great messages about being oneself, loving science, and gluttony.

Let me get this straight, a funny family film which features a talking monkey and a prominent voice-role from Bruce Campbell? I am so there. Seriously, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is one of the funniest films that I've seen in years. I see a lot of animated movies and always hope to enjoy, but rarely do I walk away so satisfied. The finale drags a bit, but overall this is one of the wittiest and slyest movies of the year. The movie will leave you feeling hungry, but you'll be filled with happiness.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs gets head in the head with macaroni on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing on grain or defects from the source material. I can only assume that this is a digital-to-digital transfer, as the picture is pristine. The colors look great, most notably pastels. (The color scheme plays a big role in the story.) The image has a great amount of depth and detail. (If you were upset about the 3-D version not being included here, don't be. I saw the 3-D version in the theaters and it didn't add much.) The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very impressive track, as the stereo effects are very good and highly detailed. They do a fine job of illustrating sounds off-screen and when sounds move from side-to-side. The surround sound effects are great as well, they nicely define the food falling to the ground and the finale provides a load of rear action. The subwoofer effects are impressive for a family film and the food landing during the last 1/3 of the film provides some nice rumbling.

The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. The first feature may be one of the oddest ever. With "Splat Mode", the viewer can throw an assortment of virtual food at the screen and then clean it with a virtual squeegee. This is fun for about 5 seonds. We get an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writers/Directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, along with actor Bill Hader. "A Recipe for Success: The Making of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (11 minutes) is a fun look at the thoughts behind the film. Clearly aimed at a general audience, this piece contains comments from the filmmakers who discuss the look of the film and the work involved in making the food looks realistic. "Key Ingredients: The Voices of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (13 minutes) examines each of the main characters and allows us to see the cast in the recording studio. The Disc contains two EXTENDED SCENES which run about 3 minutes and one of which is done in animatic style. The fight between Flint and The Mayor should have been left in the movie. There are two "Early Development Scenes" which run about 6 minutes and are simply storyboards. "Progression Reels with Introductions by Visual FX Supervisor Rob Bredow" (8 minutes) explains how several different elements come together to make the scenes work, including color palettes, lighting, backgrounds, etc. The final extra is the MUSIC VIDEO for "Raining Sunshine" by Miranda Cosgrove. Also included is a 2-minute behind-the-scenes look at the video...which is just odd.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has also brought Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to DVD. The DVD contains both the widescreen and the re-formatted full-frame (1.78:1) version of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The colors are excellent and the image is never too dark or bright. The picture is never as sharp as the Blu-ray Disc, but it does look very good. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides nice stereo effects and the surround sound effects are solid as well. The subwoofer effects during the finale sound great.

The DVD contains the same extras as the Blu-ray Disc save for "Splat" game.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long