Netflix Minute is a weekly feature highlighting a title from Netflix's catalog of instant view films. If you want to spend a night snuggled up with a bag of popcorn and don't want to drive to the video store, this is for you.
For quite a while now, Pixar has easily held the throne as premier animation studio. Companies like Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox Animation have approached their success, but Pixar's dominance remains clear both in terms of public mind-share and financial prowess (2010's Toy Story 3 earned a place as fifth largest grossing film worldwide, trumping Shrek 2 by nine spots).
While Sony Pictures Animation has found some moderate success with franchises like Open Season, they haven't made a transformative, company-defining film like Toy Story or Finding Nemo. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs remedies that with a truly comedic tale about food raining down from the sky.
Our protagonist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has always dreamed about being a scientist, building an outwardly ridiculous but actually brilliant laboratory up from a simple treehouse. Being such a nerd didn't make him the most popular kid in school, but his mother always believed in him. Even after her unfortunate death, Flint still tries his best to invent mindblowing devices with little success. When Flint's father decides he's had to deal with enough of his son's messes, the silly young scientist is forced to work in a bait-and-tackle shop in the spirit of his hometown (renowned for... sardines).
In a final attempt to make a mark and prove himself, Flint builds a machine designed to convert water into any food he chooses. Unfortunately, his creation appears to be yet another failure, blasting off into a rocket that destroys the town's latest attempt to bring more people in, a sardine-themed amusement park. Before the end of the day (and much to the surprise of everyone including Flint), hamburgers rain down from the sky and transform the town into a bustling attraction. Meteorologist intern Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) manages to get lucky and capture footage of the hard to believe weather, showing the miracle to the world.
This scenario might seem outworldly and silly from the outside, but... it actually is. Much of Cloudy's success is due to the fact that it indulges in the weird and outrageous, departing from the often self-serious plots of films like Wall-E and Up. The food-friendly action only gets more crazy as the film goes on, bringing plenty of sight gags to the screen with little recourse.
The combination of the great human animation and voice performances does the rest of the work. All of the animated characters have very expressive faces and bodies, adding yet another layer of hilarity through simple manipulations of these people. The brilliant voicework permeates not only the primary characters like Flint and Sam, but also adds a lot through peripheral characters. Bruce Campbell offers up a sinister performance of the ever-enlarging town mayor, Mr. T delivers an inspirational speech on Hader's behalf towards the end of the film, and Andy Samberg doles out an absolutely ridiculous performance as the town's former mascot.
When it comes down to it, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs doesn't break any sacred ground. It does, however, revel in its own childish happiness to deliver a grin-inducing experience. While some aspects of the plot wear a little thin in the third act, the earnestness of Flint's relationships with both his father and Sam help move things along swimmingly. The ensemble voice cast adds more than the sum of its parts to the film's charm, making Sony Animation a true player in the space.
Score: 4 out of 5
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