181-184: Harry Potter Marathon, Part 2


And here we are at the other end of our Harry Potter marathon and I must say that it hasn’t been the chore I was expecting it to be. Watching these movies in order in a short amount of time is really beneficial for someone like me… someone who hasn’t read the books. It keeps fresh the enormous amount of details that need to be remembered to make sense of it all and adds to the appreciation of this movie series.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

From now on the proverbial excrement hits the fan. At the end of Goblet of Fire we were witness to the resurrection of Voldemort and now the race begins to save the world from his clutches. With a new director at the helm, David Yates, who would go on to direct all the remaining movies, the series takes on a much more dire tone. Gone are the whimsical elements from the story up to make room for more teenage angst, ever more perilous adventures and dark secrets revealed. At Hogwarts the situation is worsened by the arrival of Dolores Umbridge, a spy for the Ministry played wonderfully by Imelda Staunton, who turns the school into something that more resembles a prison. Harry, meanwhile, tries to convince the world that Voldemort has indeed returned, but nobody wants to believe him. Even his friends start to doubt him. His inability to convince anyone and the doubts about his own role in the whole scheme of things start to take their toll on Harry. Thankfully Daniel Radcliffe is able to shoulder this burden and give Harry enough depth to make these trials believable. The character Harry Potter seems to be in capable hands.The film ends with a spectacular sequence inside the Ministry of Magic with wall-to-wall visual effects and another riveting confrontation between Harry and Voldemort. I had my problems with Order of the Phoenix, but they are outweighed by the enjoyment of so many of the other elements.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This is the point where I started to lose interest when the movies were first released. To be honest, I felt left out, because so many of the concepts in this movie were foreign to me. Much in Half-Blood Prince seemed only enjoyable when you actually had read the book. But now, with all five preceding movies still fresh in my head, I must admit that I was wrong. The puzzle pieces fell into place more easily now. You just have to really pay attention to ever detail, because everything comes back in some way, shape or form. In Half-Blood Prince a new element is introduced: the Horcrux, an object infused with part of someones soul. It turns out Voldemort has hidden several of these Horcruxes and Harry (together with Dumbledore) vows to retrieve all of them and destroy them, in order to weaken Voldemort to the point where he can be killed. This provides a framework for the rest of the movies with several encounters revolving around these objects. But that’s not all. Draco Malfoy is chosen as the sacrificial lamb to do Voldemort’s bidding, the Weasley home is attacked by Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius Black’s niece or killer, and a very important character is killed at the end of the movie. All very dramatic stuff. That is why the casting of Jim Broadbent as Horace Slughorn is so important to this movie. He is the perfect combination of lighthearted and dramatic. His acting is a breath of fresh air in the often quite heavy atmosphere of the Harry Potter world. Imelda Staunton had the same task in Order of the Phoenix, providing comic relief. All in all I really liked Half-Blood Prince, mostly because of the intense dramatic moments.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

And so the ending begins. Battle lines are being drawn, sides are taken. Harry, Hermione and Ron are on the run from the Death Eaters, who have taken over the Ministry and attacked the wedding between Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour. From that point on the story of Part 1 becomes a road movie about our three heroes trying to make sense of the whole mess. Ron becomes more and more angry at Harry for not doing enough to safe the wizarding world, Hermione is trying real hard to solve all the riddles that are thrown at them and Harry is hard to work to find the remaining Horcruxes without getting himself killed. If you are expecting a rollicking adventure movie this time around you are in for a surprise. While there are certainly moments where the story picks up the pace, the majority of Part 1 takes on a very subdued tone. A quiet before the storm, if you will. Once again, watching Part 1 in the theater was a boring and confounding experience for me. I hardly knew what a Horcrux or a Death Eater were, so you can imagine that this time around I liked Part 1 a lot more. I started to feel a lot of empathy for these kids who are thrust into this otherworldly adventure that is way beyond their years. No child or teen should be made to carry this burden. One of the most endearing moments comes when Harry asks Hermione to dance at one of the worst moments possible and for a few minutes they forget everything that is happening around them to enjoy the moment as they should have if the circumstances were different. Although the movie as a whole may not be the most exciting adventure of them all, I think this installment has a lot of heart and in that regard is a good setup to what is to come next.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

And what comes next is the culmination of everything that transpired prior to Part 2. Voldemort has acquired the tools and the army to once and for all to take over the wizarding world. Everything comes to a spectacular close with Harry and his friends trying to discover the last Horcruxes, the Order of the Phoenix taking back Hogwarts and ultimately Harry preparing himself for his all important duel with Voldemort. As with every installment of the Harry Potter series. A lot of ground has to be covered before we get to where we are going. It is understandable that they split Deathly Hallows into two parts. If the book is half as dense as the movies, than that is one hell of a book to get through. Together these movies take up nearly four and a half hours of your time and not a lot of it is wasted on frivolous nonsense.

This is Harry Potter’s Return of the Jedi. This is the moment everything comes together and the big finale kicks off. Thinking back to the first movies in the series I didn’t think these kids could have acted their way out of a paper bag when the story would become more dramatic, but they have grown… a lot. Radcliffe still isn’t the best actor ever, but he holds his own across from a powerhouse like Ralph Fiennes. I could get behind what he was going through and that is a lot more than I expected. Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are still his trusty sidekicks and though there is a lot of frowning and scowling going on they carry the weight of everything their characters went through on their shoulders.

I really liked the way Deathly Hallows worked out. A lot of the loose ends were tied up neatly, even though Rowling needed a sizable flashback to do so. There were some surprises in there, but I got the feeling that there was so much information to be conveyed that the movie moved just a little too fast through it all. Maybe I have to watch it again sometime to get every last detail of the story (or maybe just read the books). One huge gripe I have with the concept of the Room of Requirement. In Order of the Phoenix it was nice, but since then it feels as a way of dealing with dead ends in the plot and having people move in and out of Hogwarts undetected. It got a little tiring to see it pop up again and again as a deus ex machina. Other than that I really liked Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

The Sum Total

Well, has this marathon changed my perception of the Harry Potter series? Absolutely. As I said at the beginning, I had seen all these movies (minus one) before, but never fully appreciated the arc Harry Potter goes through during these movies. It is actually a great story about somebody who has to carry an enormous burden before he is in any way capable of doing that and the way he copes with that responsibility. Next to the story that is engaging and fun there is the enormous technical achievement of these movies. Producer David Heyman managed to produce eight (!) major blockbuster movies in about twelve years or so. These movies have beautiful scenery, fantastic art direction and spectacular visual effects, all of them produced on an extremely tight schedule. Like the Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter movies deserve an honorary Oscar or something for the sheer audacity of attempting this undertaking. And on top of that Heyman got the original cast to stick around when everybody was saying they could never pull that off.

It was a good decision to do this marathon, because it opened my eyes a little to what other people are so wildly enthusiastic about. It still isn’t Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but it has certainly made me curious and what do you know maybe I will read the books one day.


174-177: Harry Potter Marathon, Part 1

This is part one of a Harry Potter marathon me and my wife are doing over the next two weeks or so. I was pleasantly surprised that the 8-film Blu-ray collection was back on the shelves last weekend and took the opportunity to revisit these movies. Mind you, I have never read any of the books so my opinion will not be tainted by adaptation, omissions or changes. I do have to admit that I was never a really big fan of the Harry Potter series. I just wasn’t able to buy into all the fuss that surrounded them. I have seen all but one (the last), and am curious how they will come across now that I am going to watch them as one long series.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Where it all began. Chris Columbus took the helm of the behemoth undertaking that was to become one of the biggest blockbusters in movie history. By this time the Harry Potter books were already a success, so anticipation was high and Columbus didn’t disappoint. He managed (together with screenwriter Steve Kloves) to compress J.K. Rowling’s introduction of Harry Potter and his friends into a wonderfully whimsical fantasy adventure. We are thrown from one wondrous scene to the next and are treated to a nice little mystery that ends in a whopper of a teaser for what was to come with the evil Voldemort doing his evil doings. While the movie is certainly a triumph, there is also quite a bit to point out that isn’t perfect. Throughout the movie we feel Columbus constantly wants to do more, but he is bound by the enormous tome that has to be represented within the running time (which is a staggering 152 minutes). There are parts of the movie that are just there to service the exposition and introduction of all the characters, which otherwise could have been omitted. Some of these parts feel choppy and rushed. You also feel this is (as our heroes) the most immature of the stories. This is totally understandable, of course, and that also makes Sorcerer’s Stone the most  child friendly of the series. Although I still won’t let my five-year old watch it.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of Secrets was to me a vast improvement over the first movie. I loved the fact that Columbus dared to take the movie down a much darker path with several scenes that were genuinely scary. Now, ten years later, I still like Chamber of Secrets very much. The kids have aged a little bit and aren’t as extremely young as they were in Sorcerer’s Stone. The stakes are a bit higher with people actually getting hurt during the movie. Harry has to really give it his all to fight the evils that lurk underneath Hogwart’s castle. There are, however, still moments that invoke the dreaded deus ex machine, like the sudden appearance of the Phoenix during the final battle. It tells me that either Rowling or Kloves were struggling there and took the easy way out. It took me out of the movie for a moment. The addition of Dobby the house elf, on the hand, is fantastic. What a great character he turned out to be. His total lack of self-respect is endearing in a way and his vindication at the end is a great moment in the movie. Chamber of Secrets has the good fortune of not being encumbered by the necessity to explain everything about our heroes. It dives right in and doesn’t stop until the 161 minute running time is over. I assure you that those minutes will fly by before you realize it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Many point at Prisoner of Azkaban as one of their favorite Harry Potter installments. I don’t see it. I don’t particularly like the third part in the this enormous series. This has several reasons. First is the tone. Director Alfonso Cuarón decided to leave behind the slightly more cheerful color palette of the Columbus chapters in favor of a nearly bleached out color spectrum that sucks all the wonder out the movie. And it is wonder that drove the first two movies. Second is the intensely choppy nature of the screenplay. I admire some of the obstacles Rowling introduces into the world of Harry Potter, like the genuinely scary Dementors. These soul sucking monsters look like they have been lifted from the pages of a Tolkien novel, but that doesn’t make them any less creepy. There are however enough moments that are so shamelessly manipulative (like Ron keeping his hand against the window in the train, or the flight of the hippogriff) that it takes me out of the movie every time. The final sequence with the time travelling is fun and all, but could the story not have been told without that gimmick? Are there positive aspects to Prisoner of Azkaban? Sure, the movie looks gorgeous, even in its almost black and white color scheme. The addition of more British heavy hitters (David Thewlis, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, Timothy Spall) to the supporting cast lends more gravity to the movie. I think people think this is one of the best installments because of the shock value after first seeing part two and then Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

When I first saw Goblet of Fire back in 2006 I was terribly disappointed. Somehow the movie didn’t connect with me in any way and it in fact annoyed the hell out of me. Maybe the dreadful haircuts of the boys were to blame, or the overtly teenage problems the characters were dealing with. Maybe I was a bit too cynical at that time. I don’t know. What I do know is that I like Goblet of Fire quite a bit more this time around. While the first fifteen minutes still feel like an extreme aggregation of what really transpired, the rest felt like a real adventure for everybody involved. Harry has to cope with being the fourth contender in this ludicrous tournament, while also being plagued by nightmares that foreshadow an event that will rock Harry’s world later in the movie. On the other side there are Ron and Hermione, who have their own problems to deal with. Ron is fed up with being the third wheel and starts to stand up to Harry. However annoying and unreasonable he may be. This is typical teenage behavior and completely fitting. Also fitting is Hermione’s blossoming into an attractive young woman. For the first time she is occupied with the possibility of something else than always having her nose in a book. It is lovely to see that these two characters also get their moments to develop themselves. Then there are the challenges, which are all fun and exciting sequences. Tie those elements together and you have a really fun adventure with a tremendous pay-off where we finally get to experience Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort in full force. It feels like Goblet of Fire is just the right combination of the wonder of past movies and the seriousness of the coming movies.

Soon part 2 of this duology.

171-173: ParaNorman, Cosmopolis, Skyfall

171: ParaNorman

With ParaNorman, animation company Laika has made themselves a force to be reckoned with. After the flawed, but charming Corpse Bride and the downright awesome Coraline they have shown that they can tackle grown-up while simultaneously entertaining young and old alike. ParaNorman fits perfectly within that description. This story about a young boy who can see the dead wandering around is a touching story about being different and embracing that ways that make us unique and interesting. It goes to places where you never thought it could go. It plays with your expectations and several times gives the audience something to think about. All the while we are treated to beautiful animation, perfect pacing and hilarious comedy. The pacing comes to the for when we are treated to quiet character moments followed by raucous action fun and never do the transitions feel jarring. The comedy is everywhere. From tiny moments between Norman and the ghosts to the zombie invasion in the village that suddenly takes a turn for the unexpected. I loved ParaNorman from start to finish. In fact, I felt this would be a special movie when I watched the first trailer. Highly recommended and a certain contender for my top ten for 2012.

172: Cosmopolis

David Cronenberg is more and more removing himself from the type of movies we have come to know him for. No more body horror for him, but something that resembles psychological horror. Earlier this year I watched A Dangerous Method, which was not a movie I could get behind (for whatever reason). Now it is Cosmopolis, a movie that I want to like so bad, but am having a hard time doing so. Cosmopolis, based on a novel by Don DeLillo, is about a young man who wants nothing more than a haircut. The problem is that his regular barber shop is on the other side of Manhattan and the streets are about to be overrun by protesters who want nothing more than to lynch our hero. This is because he is a very wealthy and successful investment banker and that makes him a prime target for them. On top of all that he sees his empire crumble in front of his eyes during the day. It is a strange journey on which he almost never leaves his limo and meets several people he has conversations with.

I stress this last bit, because most of Cosmopolis consists of conversations of the highest sort. Like A Dangerous Method, you really have to keep your attention with the film or else you will lose chunks of relevant (and sometimes not so relevant) dialogue. I like these kinds of movies where dialogue plays a big part, but it usually takes me a couple of viewings to grasp the whole picture. Can I recommend Cosmopolis? That’s a difficult question. It all depends on your willingness to have your ears do more of the work than your eyes. For the most past I like the direction Cronenberg has been going in the last few years (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises are brilliant movies), but I also wish he would once in a while go back to the more outlandish subjects he tackled in movies like The Fly and eXistenZ. Who doesn’t love some freakish body horror every so often?

173: Skyfall

James Bond has never been a slam dunk for me. I can appreciate the action sequences and the strange situations Bond finds himself in on a regular basis. But there always is a nagging resistance in the back of my mind that prevents me from loving these movies the way a lot of other people do. This new incarnation has been up and down for me. I liked Casino Royale, but that was more due to the bold turn the series took. I was stunned that I was incredibly bored by Quantum of Solace. Now we have the third Daniel Craig James Bond movie, titled Skyfall, and it falls somewhere in between these two earlier installments. I liked Skyfall, I truly did, but I constantly got the feeling that we have seen it all before. How many times have we seen a list of secret agents get into the wrong hands? How many times have we seen people hacking into computers to get their way? How many times have we seen the bad guy be captured (willing or not) to hedge some nefarious scheme? It has all been done before. Maybe this is because Bond has been around for fifty years by now and the stories run a little thin after all that time. As a spy thriller there is a lot to like about Skyfall. It is fast paced, funny at times, and full of drama that doesn’t actually involve Bond. As an entry in the Bond continuum I must this is one of the better entries, but as a movie in the free world among other movies I don’t count this as a great movie.

155-158: Jeff, Be Kind, Snow White, Short Circuit

Every once in a while I am going to play catch-up. Due to time constraints I am not able to write full-on reviews for every movie I watch. The movies I don’t have the time for I will aggregate in these Catch-Up episodes.

155: Jeff Who Lives At Home

Jeff Who Lives At Home seemed to me to be one of those hipster comedies that are just too clever for their own good, but I came away very surprised that this is actually a very funny and thoughtful movie. Jay and Mark Duplass are mostly known for their meandering ‘mumblecore’ outings, but this is nothing like those movies. Jason Segal plays Jeff and inhabits him completely. His musings on M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs are hilarious. Ed Helms plays his despicable brother Pat and it is nice to see him play up his more evil side for once and not be the corny good guy. While the movie takes some time to get up to steam the wait is well worth it. The characters are fleshed out really well and come together rather nice at the end. This is an excellent unassuming comedy about people stuck in their lives and finding a new way.

156: Be Kind Rewind

Michel Gondry is a gifted artist and his work has fascinated me for years. His beautiful music videos for Björk, Massive Attack and The Chemical Brothers in particular caught my eye early on. He eventually made one of my favorite movies of all time: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I get the feeling he has lost his way a bit in his own visual style. Nowhere else is that more evident than in Be Kind Rewind. Gondry’s homemade style of film-making is pushed to the brink of being annoying in this fairy tale about the sweding of movies. The conceit is that all the videotapes in a video store have been erased and that our heroes are supposed to figure out a way to fix this. They decide to recreate the movies on their own, which is fun in itself. Be Kind Rewind has no problem convincing us that these sweded movies are fun to watch. That’s where Gondry’s style fits perfectly. The problem is the fact that the rest of the movie just doesn’t add up too well. Be Kind Rewind is the textbook example that an idea can be very funny in short segments, but simply doesn’t add up to a good movie.

157: Snow White and the Huntsman

Can a good enough movie be ruined by a single piece of the puzzle? After seeing Snow White and the Huntsman I believe this to be the case. This is by no means a terrible movie. There are some problems with the pacing and some directorial choices (was the big green monster scene really necessary), but on a whole there is a lot to enjoy here. The movie looks brilliant and Charlize Theron is deliciously evil. Then why did I not enjoy it one bit? I think it’s because of Kristen Stewart as Snow White. I’m sure she is a decent actress in some parallel universe, but this role wasn’t the one to display any skill whatsoever. There is no emotion in her eyes and consequently I could not bring myself to be invested in the adventure she is on. I felt literally nothing and was bored to tears. Such a shame, because I felt there certainly was a lot in Snow White and the Huntsman that could justify it being a good movie.

158: Short Circuit

This is one of those movies that can do no wrong with me. It is up there with The Goonies, WarGames and Gremlins. Even now, nearly thirty-eight years old, I enjoy the hell out Short Circuit and as it so happens… my five-year-old son does as well. He eats it up until he is full and then asks for seconds. Just like I did when I was a kid. I used to watch the aforementioned movies on a loop. But what does the rational, cynical movie review part of my brain tell me about Short Circuit? It tells me the comedy is corny, the logic is non-existent and more of such movie review jargon. Often people say you have to watch movies with the target audience in mind, because it isn’t fair to judge a kids movie by adult standards. So when I see my boy enjoying the hell out of this movie, and I am sure many more to follow, I know enough. This movie works its magic ways and will continue to steal the hearts of a lot of children to come.

130: 17 Again

Sometimes you have to poke through the obvious exterior of a movie and keep an open mind. Recently I decided to dig up 17 Again, a Zac Efron vehicle from 2009 that got panned  by many critics, but which got a fairly positive buzz nonetheless. I always planned on getting back to it, but never got around to it, until now… and I must say that the critics had it wrong this time. This is a largely enjoyable feature about what it means to grow old and the responsibilities that brings with it.

In 17 Again we return to a Big-like story (except in reverse) about a guy who has doubts about the choices he made when he was young. During an important basketball game he chooses to go for the girl instead of the winning play. The ramifications of this choice have kept him occupied all his life. And one night he asks the powers that be to be seventeen again. His wish is granted, the only problem is that he did not specify the time in which he wanted to be seventeen again. See, even asking for a wish he can’t do very well. He becomes seventeen in the present day and that is anything but ideal.

Zac Efron never really showed up on my radar before. It is that dreaded cute-guy-syndrome Leonardo DiCarpio and a score of other guys have been struggling with in their career. Efron shows in 17 Again that he can handle himself beyond being the cute guy who brings the teenage girls into the theaters. His performance is believable and that is all we were asking for in this fantasy-tale of redemption and getting that coveted second chance. His older self is played by Matthew Perry and he is excellent. He has that quality to him a lot of guys can relate to. He is a little chubby, you see he wonders about what could have been, he is insecure and he just doesn’t want to commit to a life that entails having less fun and having more responsibility.

Everything in 17 Again hinges on the performances, because the story we have seen a million times before. Efron and Perry are excellent as the main lead, Leslie Mann plays his wife and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!) is hilarious as the guy who was the nerd in high school and now has a house that resembles the ultimate man-cave. And Melora Hardin (The Office) plays the hard-nosed principal of the school who takes an interest in Lennon’s character. Their dinner together is one of the true highlights of 17 Again.

Director Burr Steers made Igby Goes Down in 2002, a movie I didn’t feel much for and which I thought was too heavy-handed for its own sake. In 17 Again he seems to have found a more pleasant balance between drama and comedy. He went on to make another movie with Efron called Charlie St. Cloud, which I have yet to see. That flick got panned as well by the critics, so maybe I’ll just have to check that one out as well.

> IMDb

129: Ted

I am not a fan of Family Guy. I think Seth MacFarlane’s animated show about the dysfunctional Griffin family is overrated. His constant stream of jokey jokes and cut-aways are extremely tiresome and quite frankly not very funny. I was afraid MacFarlane’s first step into the world of directing a feature film, Ted, would take the same approach. While Ted does have some similarities with Family Guy it is also so much better, and incredibly funny. But… be warned. Ted may feature a cuddly teddy bear, but it is definitely NOT suitable for children.

The deception of Ted starts right at the beginning. We drift down towards a middle class neighborhood at Christmas time. We meet John Bennett, a lonely boy who has no friends. He can’t even get himself to be picked on, he is that alone. On Christmas eve John gets a huge fluffy teddy bear he calls Ted and at night he wishes the bear to be real. In the morning it becomes clear that a miracle has happened… Ted is alive and even more cute than the night before. All this is played as if this was an ’80s Steven Spielberg with harmless music and sweet cinematography.

It almost makes you forget that MacFarlane explains to us that Christmas is the time of year when the Christian kids beat up the Jewish kids and that a Cobra helicopter is far more powerful than love. From that point on Ted takes a turn for the grim. Ted becomes a celebrity with all the perks that come with it. But with his rise to fame his subsequent decline is inevitable. Ted becomes a stoner and practically lives on John’s couch, even though John (Mark Wahlberg) now lives together with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis). John and Ted are inseparable and that starts to takes its toll on John’s life.

The story of Ted is not very interesting in itself. You have a guy who has trouble growing up. His life isn’t panning out the way he it too. He resorts to childish behavior and uses his teddy bear friend as an excuse for his immaturity. During the course of the film he has to come to terms with the fact that he has to cut Ted loose in order to grow up and move on with his life. Nothing special there. The plot is actually just there to function as a framework for Ted’s comedy, which is so incredibly funny it almost made me choke on my drink.

As with the story, there is nothing remarkable about the comedy. It is a mix of raunchy lines and slapstick comedy, just as we have grown accustomed to in MacFarlane’s productions. The brilliant thing about Ted is the way the comedy is presented. Ted delivers his lines (voiced by MacFarlane himself) with such a deadpan conviction in a thick Boston accent. Lines that include racial slurs and other even more questionable words. Anything he says comes out funny, there is not one missed beat in MacFarlane’s performance.

On top of that there is the fact that nobody in Ted’s world seems to question the fact that there is a living and breathing teddy bear walking around. When Ted drives John to work nobody minds, even though he plows his car into another car on the lot. The funniest scene is the one where John has a fight with Ted and they physically fight. Normally John should have no problem whatsoever winning a fight with a teddy bear, but Ted gives it his all. They go flying across the room and clearly John does have a rough time beating Ted. Instead of having this be the comedic high point of the movie MacFarlane chose to play this scene incredibly serious. Not a single beat is played for laughs and that makes it even more funny. I nearly busted my gut watching that scene.

MacFarlane shows with Ted that he has a clear understanding of what good comedy is. He needs a lot of profanity to do it, but nonetheless he pulls it off, something I never really got from Family Guy or his Star Wars parodies. Be aware of when you take a swig from your cup, because it may end up on the back of somebody’s head. Ted is a comedic masterpiece.

> IMDb

126: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

What if you had to eat sardines for the rest of your life? You would start to invent some machine to change your fate, right? And Flint Lockwood happens to be an inventor who has been thinking up stuff his whole life. Shoes with laces that don’t come undone, the remoteless television, ratbirds and now the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator or FLDSMDFR, for short. This contraption is capable of creating anything that is considered food. From hamburger to steaks, from ice cream to spaghetti with meatballs. Exactly the thing a sardine-ridden island needs, right?

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is as quirky as the premise make it seem. This is an animated movie without boundaries and I love it. Cloudy is like nothing I had seen before. At first it was a little unsettling. The characters are very cartoony, the colors are so bright it almost hurts your eyes and the story is so out there you really need to rewire your brain to make sense of it. Once you have done that you can let the wacky nature of Cloudy wash over you. Phil Lord and Chris Miller based their screenplay on a children’s book of the same name by Judi Barrett, but did not adopt its visual style. They went with a very different look, a look I actually prefer over the book.

I have now seen Cloudy numerous times, because my kids love it so much. While other movies have the tendency to become annoying after twenty or so viewings, Cloudy doesn’t seem to do that. With every viewing (mostly from the corner of my eye while doing other stuff) I discover new jokes, visual details, and other brilliant bits that escaped me on all those earlier viewings. It is a virtual smörgåsbord of hidden references and snappy dialogue. It is not often that a movie can stay surprising for such a long time.

While being incredibly funny Cloudy is also a great morality tale for the youngsters (and old folk) out there. It teaches them to respect and admire that which you have over what you desire. Flint is so occupied with creating this brilliant new future for his community that he starts to neglect his relationship with his father, whose business almost goes belly up due to Flint’s inventions. And it teaches kids that being yourself is always better than presenting yourself as something you are not, as Anna Faris’ Sam finds out. There is a beautiful layer of wise truths to be found underneath all that happens in Cloudy. I heartily recommend Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to anyone who hasn’t seen it and to anyone who has seen it I say, go revisit it. You will not be disappointed.

> IMDb