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Monday, September 28, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (***1/2)


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is awesome. It's the real deal. Gorgeously animated and endlessly visually inventive, Cloudy's secret weapons are 1) a sharp, witty script that never panders and 2) characters who are brought to life by some excellent voice-over acting by a gung-ho cast lead by Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, and Mr. T. Mr. T almost steals the movie entirely and finds numerous funny ways to pronounce "Flint Lockwood!"  There are true-to-life relationship issues deftly worked into the story, including surprisingly touching parallel stories of love between fathers and sons, along with an awkwardly sweet romance at its center between Faris and Hader's characters. ("You actually thought pretending to have allergies would make you more attractive?" Faris' secretly nerdy reporter Sam Sharp says to Hader's wonderfully named eccentric inventor Flint Lockwood.) I also liked Faris' camera man from Guatemala, voiced by Benjamin Bratt, who is also a doctor, a pilot, and a comedian (but not a physicist.) There are jokes in the dialogue like, "That spaghetti twister is just an amouche bouche compared to what's heading our way!" that go right over the kids' heads but work for the grown ups in the audience (who watch Top Chef.  Me.). Watching Cloudy in a theater packed with rugrats (I brought two) made me feel like Professor Frink on The Simpsons playing with the vacuum cleaner toy and chastising Bart and Lisa's classmates: "You won't enjoy it on as many levels as I do!" This is simply a terrific animated 3D family movie, as good as the movies produced by Pixar. For an animated film, there's no higher compliment.