February 3, 2010

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Pixar has so long been the benchmark for quality re: computer generated animation, that when people come close it’s easy to laud. Especially after all those terrible DreamWorks films. Kung Fu Panda was an obvious step up for DreamWorks Animation, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs suggests that Pixar doesn’t have own the CGI playground. Bill Hader stars as Flint Lockwood, an inventor who creates a machine that turns the town’s weather into food. Anna Farris plays Sam Sparks, the newscaster who becomes his love interest. My review of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on the Blu-ray after the jump.

cloudy_with_a_chance_of_meatballs_movie_image.jpgFlint grew up with an uncommunicative father (James Caan) and a mother (Laruen Graham) who passed away during his childhood. She was supportive of his science-dreams, his father just wants him to work at his store. Their town has always been dominated by the sale of sardines, and famous child star “Baby” Brent (Andy Samberg). Their town is also in a recession, and the mayor (Bruce Campbell) is trying to restart it as a tourist spot when Flint’s latest machine enters the atmosphere and starts producing food. It turns their home into a national sensation, but Flint – who’s always been desperate for approval – begins pushing his machine too far until it freaks out – delivering deadly sized food products and must be shut down. Along the way, cub reporter Sparks reveals her inner nerd and gets a crush on Flint.

Cloudy is a visually and verbally inventive film, and the visuals are enough to make you want to eat shortly thereafter. The makers have a good cinematic sense, and they’ve learned a lot of lessons from Pixar, which is that you can make a lot of jokes as long as you have your heart in the right place, and the father-son relationship works on that level. There’s also a great sense of escalation, pacing, and pay off. And when the film moves into its adventurous third act, the strange food combinations make for a pleasingly creepy atmosphere (the heroes are attacked by giant cooked chickens). Watching the film for the first time, I was bowled over because the film is legitimately funny, and sweet and all that, but on second viewing it doesn’t have that something that makes a Pixar film so special. That’s not a knock on the film, but though the film is great, it falls a little short of the label classic. Perhaps it’s just too often going for some silly jokes, but regardless, it’s close, and definitely has its heart in all the right places.

Sony presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD. The picture quality is excellent, and it’s probably for the best Sony didn’t include a 3-D version, as they rarely work at home. The Blu-ray set also comes with a DVD copy and a digital copy. Extras with the film include a commentary by writer/directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord and Bill Hader. Hader’s an encyclopedia, and it’s a great commentary. There’s a making of (11 min.), and “Key Ingredients: The Voices of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (13 min.) which give a decent glossy overview of the making of, but neither compare to the commentary, which is fairly good at getting into the process of making the film. There’s two extended scenes (3 min.), and two early development scenes (6 min.). This is followed by a progression reel showing the process of animation with an intro from Visual FX supervisor Rob Bredow (8 min.). There’s a music video and bonus trailers, and a Splat mode, where you can throw things at the screen, and a food fight game.

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