Sunday, September 20, 2009

Goofy with a guarantee of laughs

You know, I always thought Pearl Jam was more than a little overrated at its heyday, mostly I guess because they were just way too earnest for my tastes.

But, over the years, I've warmed a lot to at least Eddie Vedder, mostly because of the great soundtrack for "Into the Wild," but also because their cover of "Last Kiss" is just a little delight.

Anyways, I tell you all that to tell you this: You can stream the new Pearl Jam album, "Backspacer," on the band's MySpace page here. I'm only on song three now (mostly because it has the nasty habit of crashing my Firefox at the end of each track), but it sounds pretty epicly good to me so far.

And on a different subject, it seems that Neil Patrick Harris hosting the Emmys will deliver a bonus for anyone who bothers to tune in for the almost completely suspenseless broadcast. According to Entertainment Weekly's seriously TV-obsessed scribe Michael Ausiello, there will be a "Dr. Horrible"-themed production number about midway through the show. Harris and his castmates already won an Emmy for the Web show "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" created by Joss Whedon. No word yet if Whedon will be involved in tonight's show, but that's still more of a reason to tune in than watching "30 Rock" win 20 awards yet again (though I do love the show.)

But on to the main event: "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is an almost thoroughly enjoyable animated delight and, blasphemy I know, more entertaining (and frankly that's what matters most to me) than "Up."

What makes it, if not unique, at least original enough to work is the goofy spirit of both the story and its voice actors, who are clearly all in on the fun. I think it helped going in to this one that I really knew just about nothing about the children's story by Judi and Ron Barrett, on which this is based.

The story itself is indeed so silly that you have to wonder how it could possibly work for anyone over the age of 4: Our hero, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is a boy and quickly man who just wants to invent things rather than get any kind of actual job (and really, who doesn't?) He lives in the quickly dying town of Swallow Falls, dying because its most famous export, sardines, are simply disgusting (though I've always kind of liked them.) I don't want to give too much away, but Flint somehow invents a device that turns water into food and, on a grand scale, causes it to rain food down on the town.

You can tell early on that this won't go extremely well, and it surely doesn't, but the jokes do. From the outset, they're not throwaway pop-culture references, but quick-flying bits that fit organicly with the story, from Flint's one-word commands to himself and his helper monkey Steve to the newspaper headline "Sardines are really gross."

The best jokes of all though, largely thanks to Anna Faris as the voice of wannabe-weather girl Sam Sparks, come at the expense of The Weather Channel. For me, the only weather channel I've ever tuned in to has been my front window, so the puns and especially the cut-in to a cute animal just hit their target spot on.

And with Bill Hader and Anna Faris leading the cast, plus Neil Patrick Harris (yes, him again), James Caan, Andy Samberg, Mr. T, Bobb'e J. Thomson (that fantastically foul-mouthed kid from "Role Models") and even Bruce Campbell in the voice cast, this could easily have turned into a hipster-irony disaster, but for the most part they disappear into their parts with ease. Faris (a favorite around here, in case you couldn't tell) fares the best of all, but Bruce Campbell as the mayor of Swallow Falls who jumps all over the opportunity to promote the town with Flint's new creation, is also a hoot. Lauren Graham is somehow in this too, though only for about 90 seconds at the very start, which is about as good a summary as any of just how well her movie career has gone since "Gilmore Girls."

As with any animated movie for kids and goofy-minded adults, there comes a point when the directors, here Phil Lord and Chris Miller, want to tell us the message about gluttony and obesity rather than simply show us through the story. Luckily though, after about a 10-minute dead space (in what is only an 81-minute movie), they quickly realize that any town covered one day with giant hot dogs and the next with kids sliding down giant scoops of ice cream pretty much speaks for itself.

I guess you can tell by now that I had a heck of a lot of fun with this one, but I'll leave you with just one more word about why: I watched it through exactly one pair of glasses, MINE. The colors of "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" jump from the screen, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them unfold in 2-D rather than being muddied with those silly 3-D glasses. Judging from the packed house at our Saturday afternoon screening, I'm apparently far from the only one who doesn't want to pay an extra $2 for this worthless gimmick. Peace out.


Sterfish said...

I also liked the movie a lot. I loved the many gags in the background (those ratbirds made me laugh on more than one occasion). I saw this one in 3D (my first ever digital 3D movie). You could tell that this movie wasn't made with 3D in mind initially but it was still fun to watch that way.

Reel Fanatic said...

It's good to know I didn't miss too much by being stubborn about the 3-D thing, Sterfish ... I think I'm gonna continue to hold out unless it's absolutely necessary, like say with "Avatar" soon enough