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Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

September 29, 2009

The least appealing title in cinemas for a while, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs explodes all over our screens in a welter of primary colours and a fair amount of brouhaha. We all expect the better animations to throw in a few laughs for the grown-ups, and indeed Pixar usually manage to squeeze in entire adult subtexts running parallel with all the kid-related fun, but did I really hear one critic last week say that this had a ‘nightmarish Lynchian feel’? (Yes, I did).

I dragged my heels, despite that. This had more to do with not wanting to actually say the words, “one for Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, please” out loud, than anything else, I’ll be honest. I tried to summon up a feasible scenario in my head as I waited in line: my kids had complimentary tickets and were waiting in the foyer; my date was already in there; I’m the director trying to avoid the crowds. It was never going to work. In the end I endured the withering gaze of the ticket booth girl and ploughed ahead. Nightmarish Lynchian kids’ cartoons are to be encouraged and embraced after all.

Meatballs is a robust slice of whimsy set on an island off the coast of the States (an island that’s hidden on maps beneath the A of Atlantic Ocean, which was a neat touch). The main industry is, or at least was, sardines, but the whole business is in decline. In the middle of things is Flint, a young chap who doesn’t want to be part of his Dad’s ailing tackle shop, but would much rather be an inventor. Unfortunately, all his previous inventions (which, charmingly, make smart little cameos throughout) have been utter plop.

No matter. Flint is a determined young man and he determines to make something truly memorable. On the day of the grand unveiling of the sardine theme park that the island believes will alter its sinking fortunes, he ruins a young TV weathergirl’s day by launching his new gismo, a machine that makes food out of plain water. It all goes disastrously, there are numerous calamities and the island seems ruined. Flint’s machine is rocketed up into the sky, presumably never to be seen again, and everyone is humiliated on national TV.

Then, miraculously, with the food making gadget floating in the clouds, it starts to rain cheeseburgers.

You heard.

Then jelly beans, then steaks, then ice-cream. In fact, anything Flint programmes into his computer appears to fall out of the sky. This isn’t quite as much fun as you might think, but it’s fun nevertheless, and the kids in the audience seemed to love it. It’s only when things threaten to go awry, and the machine begins to interact with a violent storm (the spaghetti tornado is fabulous) that it gets significantly darker and a whole lot weirder.

This necessitates a trip up into the clouds to see just how much Flint’s unmonitored tech has mutated and expanded. Now, I have to say that at this point it all gets pretty frenetic and there is much silliness. However, deep within this last twenty minutes lie some brilliant visual gags (there is a kung fu tiger claw joke that flies by, but had me in stitches) and some downright certifiable gear that I was very unsure about (surely that wasn’t a giant spewing backside?). But it is thinking, thinking, thinking all the time: I mean, who knew anaphylactic shock could be so amusing?

Still, it is most definitely a children’s movie, and not the new Meet The Feebles. Let’s just get that clear. As much fun as this is, and it’s a lot, I’d come up just a little short of Lynchian. I feel a little let down, in all honesty. But not that much.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ono no komachi permalink
    October 2, 2009 7:36 am

    I’ve been trying to convince the other half to go and see this… he’s quite a Lynch fan, so I’ve mentioned the ‘Lynchian’ comment to him (without the disclaimer, natch) and now I think he’s quite intrigued, so who knows?

  2. October 2, 2009 10:45 am

    hehehe…it’s an odd one, ono, it really is. You’ll wonder what I’m talking about for a while, although the oddly subversive nature *is* around in the early scenes, but that last Act. Well. It gets very strange.

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