If someone created a machine that could convert water to steak, would a vegan be able to eat it? The people of Chewandswallow don’t seem to care, scarfing down hot dogs and cheeseburgers at an alarming rate, but then again, no one in the town claims to be a vegan either. It’s just a thought.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells us during its opening credits that it is “Made by a lot of people,” a perfect credit for these animated films. With hundreds of people working to create the software and lighting, it is the only fair way to ensure everyone is fully given their due.
With the keen visuals so crucial to the countless laughs, it is also fair to say thanks to those same… a lot of people. Cloudy loves quick cut gags, in which the virtual camera immediately pans to someone either spouting a one-liner or delivering a perfect facial expression.
Bill Hader plays Flint Lockwood, a generally failed inventor who has the ideas, just not the solutions. Hader gives Lockwood an energy, aided by the flailing animations as he zips around the screen tinkering with his electronic gadgets. Lockwood’s ultimate goal is not to create a machine that makes food from water (although he does that), but to gain respect from his father. His admiration is crucial, as Cloudy lightly deals with the topic of Flint’s mother passing away. Lockwood fills that void with craftsmanship, even if never comes to pass as planned.
That offers adequate reasoning behind the expected action-loaded finale, as the visuals take hold. Peanut brittle becomes a series of deadly spikes, cooked chickens begin assaulting the heroes, and the massive meatball in the sky becomes self-aware. Cloudy never loses its energy, much like Flint himself, and it is enough to carry this animated adventure through to its conclusion, even if Lockwood never takes off his spray-on shoes.
Sony delivers an “as-expected” AVC encode, which translates into near-perfection. Complaints about this effort fall back to minor, hard to spot artifacting. Around the 48-minute mark, the town celebrates, tossing confetti into the air. The camera pans back on the large crowd, and no matter the bit rate, it’s not enough. Some minor banding is evident as well, around 55:12 in the upper right corner.
Otherwise, this is a stunning and clean Blu-ray transfer, razor sharp throughout. Each scene carries an obvious color tone, all of them beautifully handled. The sky after the machine begins dropping food is spectacular, filled with bright pinks and rich purples. The yellow taxis in Times Square are stunners, and the deep blue hues of night inside the young Flint’s bedroom are wonderful.
Black levels are lush, establishing the depth necessary for a three-dimensional look without the glasses. The town offers some flawlessly animated water off the docks, a standout shot at 17-minutes in particularly showcasing how well done this disc is. Despite the deliberately desaturated color, the level of detail in that scene brings it alive, from the wood grain to the tiniest of waves. There are no signs of ringing or intrusive aliasing either.
In 3D, it is a marvel too. Falling food from the sky is a joy to see, and all of the confetti, plethora of particles, and active camera angles keep the 3D wow factor coming. It doesn’t hurt that so much of the film is drenched in bright colors and contrast. Long shots of New York, streets full of food, and some enormously fun chases will ramp up their efforts to amaze. This disc was a Sony giveaway for awhile, and its not hard to tell why. It is a showcase.
Oddly, certain scenes meant to be broadcasts are not in 3D. To say that is a jarring switch back and forth is an understatement, if a brief occurrence. Maybe you could say the general dialogue scenes are lacking in comparison to other animated features. Backgrounds can be static in their designs at times, but the rounded nature of the characters offers a pleasing level of depth. Demo this one and you will not regret it.
With food being tossed in a variety of directions, there is little doubt this DTS-HD mix provides. Giant pancakes and corn drop from the sky with a thunderous thud, and flip through the soundfield with wonderfully accurate tracking. Large crowd scenes are engaging, with cheers (and some jeers when things start going downhill) filling the available channels with proper, clean audio.
A demo-worthy sequence, a spaghetti tornado, contains a shot where Flint is running down the street, panicked residents and giant meatballs barely missing him. People stampede in the stereo channels, nicely transitioning to the rears as they pass. The meatballs hit low-end forcefully, and likewise makes the front-to-back move without fault.
Even non-action scenes demonstrate this track’s abilities, including a wonderfully immersive scene inside a giant jello mold. Flint and his love interest Sam bounce around, while a wrap-around echo captures their voices and bouncing with ease. A great tracking shot during a celebration has the full-sounding score and nacho fountain hitting every channel.
A rather stupid pop-up feature lets users toss virtual food at the screen, the first extra listed in the menu. Luckily, that and a Space Invaders knock-off game are easily passed over. A commentary comes from co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, joined by Bill Hader. The expected making-of is terribly generic, titled Recipe for Success. Key Ingredients is 12-minutes on the voice actors, universal praise being tossed around by all. Two extended scenes along with two that didn’t make it past the planning stages are detailed.
Five progression reels are surprisingly technical in their discussion of lighting, color, and software. It is a shame they are one of the shortest features. A music video is followed by its own making-of. Trailers, a hunger PSA, and typical Sony BD-Live support remain.
Note: The 3D disc also contains two short scenes, one from Monster House and another from Open Season in 3D, along with the rest of the features.