Monday, September 21, 2009

AWESOME WITH THE PROMISE OF TOTALLY STELLAR



i've been shocked recently to learn how many people have never heard of this book. i remember CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS being a classic at westwoods elementary school in eldorado, arkansas. and eldorado was never known for being ahead of the times when it came to the arts. (we were a bit more steeped in heavy metal occultism and pine woods ghostily urban legends, to be quite honest.) still, CLOUDY was famous in our library. i remember drooling over the illustrations when mrs. beene read this to us in second grade, and i remember later at recess bryan stevenson and i had a competition to see who could draw the best portrayal of pancakes smashing our school. (his picture was better than mine.) i heard this book read at every grade level except fourth, and that's only because mrs. dorsey believed we were too old for story time. (pshaw!) we loved this book. we loved it as much as we loved WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and almost as much as SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK.

sadly, meatballs falling on a fishing town didn't resonate to south arkansans quite like dead people driving tattered cars through the woods. heavy metal occultism nabbed us at an early age in eldorado.

still, a fond flavored nostalgia of the book led me to scoop up a few extra bucks so the wife and i could see CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS yesterday in 3D. and it was fantastically more fun than either of us expected.

CLOUDY takes the cake as one of the most visually vibrant films i've ever seen. raining cheeseburgers, castles made of jell-o, a spaghetti twister, a STAR WARS style sarlacc pit made of peanut brittle, a kung-fu army of grilled cornish hens, and an avalanche rushing and rumbling an all you can eat buffet through the streets whirl together to make this film an optically glorious feast. toss in a sappy father-son story and the triumph of the anti-hero, and you've got an everyman's saga that may explain why our theatre was packed exclusively with adults instead of children.

besides the animation, i appreciated CLOUDY's lightheartedness. this past week in my classes we've discussed the various genres of film and literature in order to explore how genres build expectations in us as participants. every single class mentioned disney's insistence to explore heavy issues in animated films, issues like the death of a parent, the loss of civilization, the sadistic nature of the neighbor kid towards combat carl. and while this is surely great, sometimes i've thought that kid's films are a bit deep for kids. i've even noticed friends screening kid's films, trying to determine which issues they will need to introduce or discuss (or which scenes to skip altogether) before viewing the film as a family. CLOUDY, although featuring a few touching moments, never felt heavy. even as it explored issues of self-efficacy and greed, CLOUDY remained lighthearted, to the point, and far more dedicated to the visual topography of its initial storyline than with getting bogged down in morality boosters or animation therapy. it was nice to make it all the way through a kid's flick without getting choked up for once.

(not that such things matter to other people, but i nearly lost it watching BOLT in the theatre, and i hate all that burning throat swallowing you have to do to not cry in public. plus, sometimes it makes my nose run a wild gusher. i didn't pay to be this uncomfortable!)

for all these reasons, i glady give CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 5 baby brent booty-shots out of 5. if you love a good larger than life animated explosion of nostalgia and feel goodiness, do NOT wait for this to hit video. like mama cora's famous mac-n-cheese at thanksgiving, CLOUDY should not be experienced in small-portioned leftovers on the home dvd system; CLOUDY was made for the big screen in every dimension possible.