Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Recipe For Disaster

Or: Cloudy With A Sheer, Unadulterated Certainly Of Fail

So basically it's a ninety minute ad for McDonalds.

No, seriously. Where do I even begin with this.
Oh, I know. I'll start at the beginning.

In the beginning, there was the Earth, and it was good. And this animation geek was walking around on it and decided to wisely disregard some movie that had just come out called "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs". But the geek was pestered by friends who had heard from their friends that Cloudy was pretty good.

Not unlike Up, there was a very strange phenomenon at work here; the fact that every review I was given for this film was apparently third-hand. It did not come recommended from people who had seen it, like How To Train Your Dragon, but by friends who had heard that it was "pretty good". Or if they wanted to be realistic, "pretty good for a non-Pixar movie". Which doesn't really say anything when you compare it to the asinine horsepiss that Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Sony Pictures Animation now have down to a fine fucking art.

I will thus plop my mandatory disclaimour right here and say, sorry if you liked this movie and hoped I would write a good review. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
But that also means I'm entitled to mine and I thought Meatballs was SHIT.

And How To Train Your Dragon, pathetic as it was, is pretty much a complete fucking winner next to this horrifying trainwreck of a movie.

Seriously, this is a movie that won everyone's hearts with its glitz, its renderfarms. There's no story, it's just silly gags. About fifty times the amount of work has gone into its computer graphics than into the story. I have seen this formula work.

In ads.

You know what I like most about this advertisement?
It goes for ninety seconds. Not ninety minutes.

I'll do the opposite of what I did in How To Train Your Dragon and list the things I liked about Meatballs first.

The food looked really nice!

Made me feel hungry.

Okay now onto what I didn't like about it.

I have had it up to HERE with movies about dorky, socially awkward inventors. Our friend Flint has all the appeal of the kid you kept a good distance from at school.

The problem has existed for a long time but right now they are spreading like AIDS. Why? Because they've found a new shelter to fester and breed: CGI animation!
I'm going to remove my Sheriff Badge of Pixar fanfaggery for a second and blame this directly on A Bug's Life. That movie featured such an inventor (although crucially, he didn't spend sixty percent of the movie complaining about how he doesn't have any friends and will never get laid in a million years) and since then it's become the norm in imitator CG movies.
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that this problem is a serious pet peeve of mine, and that I could list off several films that follow this stupid formula.

Oh my god he looks exactly the same as a kid, now that is LAZY

Another thing it has in common with those ugly movies (Train Your Dragon, etc) is that you get this very creepy vibe throughout the movie's runtime that the writers are subconsciously writing themselves into the script. It's hard not to draw such conclusions when you hear lines like this one, uttered to child Flint by his mother:
"The world needs your originality, Flint!"

Or when the love interest discovers his secret lab that's pretty much stolen straight out of Tron:
"You... seriously spend a lot of time alone."

Or how do you like the Mayor's corruption-speech, when he is telling Flint that if he keeps the food raining, everyone will love him? You can just imagine the writers, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, scribbling pictures like this in their exercise books all throughout high school:

There is an obsession with nerdiness in this film bordering on the obscene. I mean, I'm a geek, I admit it. I've got my geek pride. I once cleared a room explaining the difference between a geek and a nerd. And even I found the nerd-motif in this movie fucking unbearable.

Okay, so you've got Sam Sparks, right:

Some attractive weather reporter, we'll say... uhh, let's see here, where did I put my pocket calculator... about A BILLION times out of Flint's league, and she pretty much falls head over heels for him instantly. As though to make up for this, they throw in the usual fallback of "Hero says something insanely incriminating and boner-killing, putting the girl off completely" (see Delgo), but most sickeningly, there is this whole subplot about how she used to be *GASP* a NERD. This is played upon when she, on a few occasions, utters some very intelligent conversation that proves she has a very solid grasp on meteorology and cloud-dynamics, before she realises what she's said and plays the part of a scatterbrain, correcting herself with a few sexist "dopey blonde" replacement lines. Thus when she reveals to Flint in confidence that she is, in fact, intelligent, he makes her wear her glasses that she hasn't worn for years and puts her in a scrunchie:

And then he's all like, "wow, you were pretty good before, but now, you're... beautiful..."

I wanted to vomit. What exactly were they trying to say here? That attractive girls can't be smart? That nerds are beautiful? That the scriptwriters are fucking nerds?

Well gee, are they really that much of a pair of nerds? I'm just making assumptions here.


The Stoic Dad subplot is even worse. The way in which these two incredibly ill-equipped Writer-Directors have handled it could not possibly be more excruciating or badly written. I'd go so far as to say Flint's dad is unnaturally hard to please conveniently for the sake of the narrative.

On a side note, they ruined one of the only things I liked about this movie - Mr T's voice-acting - by overanimating his character to the point of distraction. Imagine if Sportacus from Lazytown had been animated by a not-very-bright kid jacked on sugar and you would get the police officer.
Don't worry, there is a point for this tangent, and it relates directly to the Father subplot.

You see, instead of going for the usual weapons, like Tact or Subtlety, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord have instead gone for a full-frontal assault of "my daddy never loved me and, oh shit, here I am writing it into my script, whoops".

Flint's dad wastes no time telling Flint to give up his crazy inventions, which Flint is none too happy about. His dad wants him to work at the baitshop, keep the family business going. And in the establishing shots showing the bait shop from the outside, we see and hear several fathers having wonderful times with their children, literally saying "I love you, dad." "I love you too, son."

Cut to the awkwardness that is Flint and Pa.

Now I made special mention to the police officer played by Mr. T because he is the main offender in this crassly dealt-with subplot. Once Flint has his food machine working, he comes to Flint and requests that he make it rain icecream for his son's birthday. Now up until this point, the officer has been a complete dick to Flint and he lets him know it. Crestfallen, the Mr. T character sulks away from Flint's lab, and says, verbatim:

"I just wanted Cal to see how much his father loves him. I thought you would understand. Y'know how fathers are always tryin' to express their love and appreciation... for their sons."

At this point I was actually having difficulty keeping my composure. Between this and Dragon, I can't help but wonder what abused children must think when they watch movies like this. You know, the ones who don't save the day with their wacky inventions (wacky scripts, wacky movies????) and win their father's heart.

This movie also violates yet another pet peeve I have been talking about a lot lately, which is giving us more than the exposition we would ever possibly want or need at the beginning of the film via a long, drawling, disconnected monologue by the main character. It seems to be becoming a staple of (non-pixar, it should go without saying) CG animations somewhat universally. Please, show. Don't tell.

Okay, now the Mayor subplot. I'm just going to skip over this but I need to mention it because it annoys the hell out of me.

The mayor of Swallow Falls is a conniving, evil man who is for some reason the only guy in the entire film who becomes fat, and with his added weight comes a proportional sense of irrelevance to the plot. Any hint of 'character' and 'personality' gradually leak away like melted ice cream. The hollows are filled in neatly with a creamy filling of 'McGuffin' and the chocolate chips of 'forced plot-device'.

What am I talking about? Oh, you know. The fact that at first he seems to have the rational motivation of using Flint's machine to attract a larger market of tourism to Swallow Falls, and the fact that this motivation pretty much disappears completely at a certain point and he begins fighting Flint. For no other reason than to have some kooky action sequence.

He's apparently become so obsessed with food that he doesn't want Flint to deactivate the machine (though he had NO WAY OF KNOWING THAT FLINT WANTED TO TURN OFF THE MACHINE) and is willing to actually engage in physical combat with him in order to prevent food big enough to crush the entire city from falling on them. Even though, you know, that's suicide. But he's evil!! He's the bad guy!! He must do these things! It is for the sake of the plot! He also appears in Flint's lab out of nowhere, and when Flint asks "how did you get in here?", the answer never comes. I guess all the security equipment he designed is as fucking useless as all his other inventions. But the mayor won't even humour us with a "I picked the lock" or "I ate my way through the door". It's just ignored. Which makes me seriously wonder how and why he wound up in that room in the first place.

Oh, right! Silly me.

Plot convenience!

So toward the end there is this whole silly sequence where Flint has to stop the machine because it's going out of control. It has somehow grown artificially intelligent - no scratch that, actually intelligent - and is deep within a giant planet of living, mutant food.

I don't really understand why everyone talks about the ending so much, the bit they call the 'meltdown'. It was probably very impressive in 3D, but for me it was just fucking stupid. As it stands I would only enjoy these sequences if I was debilitatingly stoned with a neverending supply of munchies.

On the other hand, perhaps these scenes (save the relentless onslaught of so-called "gags" and hackneyed dialogue) were actually good. But by this point in the film I was spectacularly jaded. But on the other hand I was pretty jaded by the end of How To Train Your Dragon (wow, these movies are suspiciously comparable) and I still enjoyed the kickass fight against the giant evil dragon. So I dunno, maybe these scenes are just stupid if you don't have a pair of 3D glasses on you. To watch space-ship doritos chase down Flint no seriously WHO WAS THE FUCKING SPONSOR OF THIS FILM ALREADY

The directors like to talk in the special features about how at the start of the movie, everything in Swallow Falls is grey and dull and boring (not unlike most of the plot), but as the movie goes on it becomes more colourful and bright as Flint's invention brings cheer to the island.

This was done earlier and better in every single Tim Burton movie, ever.
They stole his signature mood-lighting technique and somehow managed to fuck it up.
Basically it has something to do with the fact that Flint literally puts a fucking DISCO BALL inside the machine at the beginning and that everything, from the artificial clouds to Flint's gadgets, output a full spectrum of rainbow light.
How, why



Seriously, I would love to review a good film on this blog soon, I am slowly going insane. But I find there is immense educational value in watching these bad films, in order to learn what not to do.

Okay so Flint saves the day with an act of beautiful self-sacrifice (because in all the scriptwriting books, it tells you that self sacrifice is the most empathetic human quality - so it doesn't really matter how annoying or stupid your character is, kill him and people will care, apparently). There is a perilous fake-death scene that, AGAIN, reminded me a lot of How To Train Your Dragon and STILL was somehow not even dealt with as well. Arch and I ruminated that 'obviously fake deaths' are probably the biggest cliché in animated movies right now. Bigger than pathetic, sobbing inventor protagonists or droning, bug-eyed rants of expositional monologue in a film's opening. Fucking can it already, just kill him or show us he's alright.

Once this is over, we are treated to a suspiciously Pixar-esque "zany creditz zequenze" animated in some weird style that, while looking great in still form, doesn't really move all that well. Or maybe they do, it's very hard to see through every single character (including Flint's dad) suddenly appearing in gay-looking costumes and cumming more rainbows than Robot Unicorn Attack and Spy Kids combined.

And finally, I'm getting into a bad habit of looking into the 'making of' documentaries of horrible films - mostly to laugh at how great the filmmakers thought their animated torture device was, or alternatively, to find out who possibly could have decided in the chain of command that the film would be a good idea.

I just have two points I'd like to cover here.

First of all, Bill Hader (the guy who plays Flint) laughs at all of his own jokes. It's embarrassing.

Secondly, Christopher Miller and Phil Lord try to be funny by telling us how a movie is made.

"Making a movie, is a lot like making a hamburger."
"A hamburger that takes three and a half years to make, and eighty seven minutes to eat."

Does that sound very appealing to you?
Yeah, I think it's gone off, mate.

Stick to ads.


  1. Wait, it took TWO people to write a movie with no plot? Too many chefs on this one. Too many chefs who take 3.5 years to make a hamburger.

  2. Heeey, for a complete change of pace, and I have no idea if you've seen it or not, but maybe you could check out The Plague Dogs (I remember you reviewed Watership Down pretty positively, and the Plague Dogs is based on a book by the same author).

    It definitely has no geeky male lead |D

  3. Plague Dogs, eh? I just might take you up on that offer, thanks!

    Also nice food pun, Andrew. My initial plan was to smother this review in food puns, but after actually -watching- the movie I was only making mental notes on what I didn't like about it. |D

  4. Your just an asshole.....

    "And then he's all like, "wow, you were pretty good before, but now, you're... beautiful...""

    He is saying that she shows her true beauty when she is herself and... .btw, She does look better that way..