Gross with a chance of laughs

2009-10-19 00:00

EVER since Pixar revitalised animation in the early 1990s, other studios have been trying to catch up, with varying success, and Sony has, in my opinion, been the least successful. Surf’s Up wasn’t a patch on Happy Feet, which also starred penguins.

Cloudy is based on a children’s book that I am not familiar with, so I can’t say how close or far from the original it is, but it does have that rather unsubtle moralising common to many books for children.

Which is not to say it is unenjoyable, or that my beloved Pixar doesn’t trade in morals, but let me just say that Up made me laugh and cry, and Cloudy sent me to sleep in parts, during an early evening screening, and despite the fact that its imagery is hyperkinetic and the soundtrack is loud. There were some nice images, and some funny bits, but I was not completely engaged.

The story concerns Flint Lockwood, who lives on a tiny island that is sustained by sardine fishing and canning, until people realise that “sardines are gross”. Flint has always come up with weird inventions that people don’t understand, but one day his machine to turn water into food goes spectacularly wrong (and right) and starts raining cheeseburgers on the town. This is better than Christmas to people who have had to eat sardines and more sardines, and soon Flint is taking requests (breakfast, ice cream) and the town is on the map.

But as with all good things, too much is always a bad thing, and when the food machine’s portion sizes get dialled up to gargantuan (supersize me, anyone?), the town is in danger of a food storm. The sight of huge steaks falling from the sky on to people’s plates is meant to be gross, but I found the first cheeseburger storm icky as well.

On the plus side, Flint’s baffled dad, a huge block with a monobrow and a moustache, is pretty funny, but the black town cop, who looks like he escaped from the Village People, just seemed like a stereotype. The love interest is supplied by TV weathergirl Sam Spark, who turns out to be a nerd trying to masquerade as a ditzy blonde and is actually far more turned on by Flint’s geekiness than not. So it comes down to the standard mantra: be yourself, follow your dreams.

One last quibble: why does a story that seems to say science can be cool refer to the genetic structure of water (that’s what the machine alters to produce food)? Real scientists must want to tear their hair out.

Cloudy is loud and a bit gross. It didn’t really appeal to me, but it may be just what an eight-year-old wants.

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