“Cloudy”: With a Chance of Sledgehammers

Sometimes, there are people who just don’t realize they’ve gotten a message across, so they pick up a sledgehammer and pound it in, again and again ad infinitum, nauseum, etc, even to the point of the defenestration of the offending book, DVD, video… you get the idea. Such was the case with ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’.

I know there are some people who figure what I’m about to say is no big deal. And if you’re the kind of person who will watch anything with impressive cinematics, that keeps perfect track of the number of bullets in Chekhov’s gun, and that shows skill in making even fleeing for one’s life look downright badass, and think that kids’ movies should be cut slack because they’re kids’ movies, then you’ll probably enjoy the movie, but seriously, you’re reading the wrong review.

The problem with ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’? To put it simply, despite being a spectacularly 3D movie, it’s peopled entirely by cardboard cutouts whose basic characteristics are hammered in until you remember “the guy who” long after you forget what the names were. You can’t claim that they didn’t spend enough time on characterization, mind you, not when fully half the footage is these characters being “themselves”. What’s missing is effort.

Where to begin? You’ve got your main character, Flint, an inventor who seems to be about 75% style and 25% substance. And manages to hit every nerd stereotype in the book, one by one. I’d be fine if it was just the labcoat and the failed inventions. I liked the tendency to narrate his actions when he was doing much of anything in relative privacy (particularly when he lampshaded it). And I think that if they’d stopped at those, maybe added mildly awkward social interaction, they would’ve been fine. But, well, what they ended up with was someone whose entire characterization was Ridiculed Nerd Who Does Not Get People, not so much.

Then we get Sam, whose big schtick is stifling her inner nerd. (No, this isn’t a spoiler, it’s blatantly foreshadowed with, even around someone who is very obviously her kind, biting down on lines of jargon and substituting something generic and brainless, by the time the burgers start falling.) And the town’s darling, incapable of shutting up about his old role as a mascot—how many times does he do the cute pose and “Uh-oh?” Too many. And—in short, just about everyone repeatedly demonstrates their schticks, over and over, until it seems like they’re yelling their names whenever they walk onto the scene. The monkey can get away with it. The people cannot.

And the lessons and themes… well, let’s just say they hit with the approximate force of a bunch of hundred-pound grapes hurtling groundward at terminal velocity. Parent and child who don’t understand each other? Grape. Greed is bad? Grape that bounces a time or two, with a side of fat-mocking. Fame is transitory and not worth as much as you think? Grape. I’m sure you get the idea.

The problem, basically, is ham-handed exposition—making so much effort to drive the points in that even people who didn’t get it the first time feel patronized by the time the movie’s over. If you want a chance to study that sort of mistake, ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ is as good a way as any. If you don’t have the patience for it, though, watch another movie.

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