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GARZ4LIB

Second Generation Librarian.

I have to admit, I avoided this movie like the plague. I loved this book so much as a child, and at first, I was saddened to see it become one in a line of children’s picture books turned into movies. Not even the awards would sway me. But my friend had mentioned that it was a very good movie and I respect his opinion about stuff. And things. So about half a year late and what will probably amount to several dollars short, I’m semi-live blogging Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Whelp, first thing, the premise really isn’t anything like the book (by Judi and Ron Barrett). BUT given the sort of anecdotal slow start to the book (after a flying pancake incident, Grandpa tells a tall bedtime tale), despite my die-hard love of the picture book… I sort of understand. Not everything translates to the big screen.

Instead we get the story of Flint Lockwood, an imaginative inventor (with spray-on shoes) who, when faced with the collapse of the local sardine industry, and the surplus of sardines this creates, decides to make a machine that mutates water into food.

This is working for me b/c it involves the basic kids’ movie character formula:

  • Goofy dreamer hero who thinks bigger and has high hopes for improving the world he lives in.
  • Cute funny animal sidekick with hilarious sounding vocoder. Or excuse me “monkey thought translator.”
  • Father who doesn’t quite get where he’s coming from, and tends to make fishing metaphors. And an encouraging, understanding, sweet, yet deceased mother for added sympathy.
  • Evil politician (voiced by the illustrious Bruce Campbell)
  • Super spunky intelligent female meteorologist/weather girl hopeful!

And we have more or less than our cast of characters! Other noteworthy characters are Baby Brent, former mascot of Baby Brent sardines, who is still living large off of his sardine fame and the overly buff, under-shorted cop voiced by Mr. T. Oh! Looked at imdb and apparently the talking monkey is voiced by… Neil Patrick Harris?!?!

Well. They find out the food machines finally works and there’s a delightful “Sunshine, Lollipops” montage. But there remains the chance that … the FOOD MIGHT OVER-MUTATE! The mayor, who has been trying to find a way to pull the town out of the sardine-slump it has been in, decides to make the city into a food theme-park. Unfortunately the food machine is sort of at odds with his father’s connection to the fishing industry (he owns a tackle store), and without his mother to mediate the father and son dynamic, misunderstandings arise.

Fortunately they kept one of my favourite food descriptions from the book: A Jell-O setting in the west. 😀 This time it’s used as a backdrop to a hilarious date with Flint and Sam. She admits she used to be a nerd and they almost kiss… then his cellphone rings. Awww.

What’s this? A little bit of environmental allegory! The more food they ask the machine to create, the more the microwave mutation process corrupts! This is actually a better plot structure than the book, since there’s really no rhyme or reason presented in the book about how or why the food starts to grow bigger. Flint realizes this, but is pushed by the mayor to keep on producing so he’ll make money, and never having been accepted in the town before, Flint is reluctant to stop making the food.

Fortunately, Sam (the weather woman) is much more proactive than Flint and realizes what’s going on and tries to warn everyone. Unfortunately, Flint doesn’t listen to her Post spaghetti twister, Flint is devastated by the destruction his invention has caused and throws himself away. Fortunately, his father brings him his lab coat again and encourages him to do his best and fix things. Father son conflict solved!!!

Okay, now the plot starts to happen in earnest, so the following are just my reactions to what’s going on on the screen. I haven’t quite figured out this “live-blogging” thing after all, haha:

  • And another one of my favourite illustrations form the book! Noodle on a guy’s head! And pancake on the school!
  • Sam and Flint (and Brent and Steve the monkey) go to shut down the machine with the kill code. They find that the machine is actually inside a meatball (ohboy) and has genetically mutated the food into SUPER food, so it tries to attack them. I raise an eyebrow at that one, but …
  • Hahaha… Flint loses the kill code in a sight gag and has to call his father for help. His father was all “What do I have to do?” and Flint says “Just go into my computer and email a file to my cell phone” “……… all right.” Oh, the digital native generation and their parents.
  • Ooh! A Foodnami! Oh. Right. “Foodvalanche.” Hm. I prefer “foodnami” but whatever.
  • Creepy mutated man-eating chickens! This is kind of like Food Inc. for kids.
  • [Montage of giant food hitting the world’s most famous landmarks. Fortune cookie on the Great Wall of China says “You are about to be crushed by a giant corn.” Hey guys, EAR of corn.]
  • Did that anchor man just say “What the what?” a Liz Lemon-ism amidst large amounts of food! How … appropriate.
  • Gummi-bears that are giant, evil and animated are terrifying. Fortunately, the monkey loves gummi bears.
  • “Sorry friend, the kitchen’s closed.”<sigh>
  • OMG INTERNET MEME JOKE! His dad emailed him a LOLcat instead of the kill code. Truly, a sign of the times. But wait – how will he save the day?
  • Ah. His spray-on shoes, formerly an invention of shame! Food mutator machine killer! Woo-hoo!
  • Everyone think’s Flint is dead, but he’s saved by a pack of one of his mutated creature things!
  • Haaaaaaa Sam just stuck the monkey thought translator on his father so he could make an “I’m proud of you, son” speech. And they kiss!

Fin.

I liked how the movie put the food more solidly in the real world. In the book, the people of Chewandswallow could simply run away from their culinary misfortunes by sailing over many seas, etc. on their boats, facing only the predicament of assimilation into a food-purchasing world. After seeing District 9, I wonder what the people of the supermarket world would do seeing a city’s worth of people arrive overseas with pizza/swiss cheese, PB and J sailboats. Probably nothing good, I’m sure.

In the movie, however, the food was problematic to not only the town, but to the whole world (see Eiffel Tower BLT). This also fit into the environmentalist undertones that the movie suggested. Namely, we shouldn’t try to manipulate nature into doing something it’s not supposed to do, lest it result in… mutated food of death. And what happens in just one part of the world effects the globe as a whole. I did think the food with malicious intent was a bit much, but it made the climax extra-exciting so it served its purpose I’m sure. Kids won’t be decapitating gummi bears heedlessly after seeing that, haha.

All in all, not really like the book (it did say “inspired”) but the screenwriters (Phil Lord and Chris Miller) definitely have produced a script that keeps the interesting parts of the plot alive, while adding topical bits that relate to the issues the kids of the world face today – the environment, economic collapse (Sardines are gross!), and hopelessly computer-illiterate parents, for example. Win!

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