Movie Review: “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2 3D”

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

It’s been four years since we last saw Swallow Falls, the little town hidden just below the “A” in “Atlantic” on the world map. At that time, the island was recovering from the aftermath of local crackpot inventor Flint Lockwood’s overtaxed “Flint Lockwood’s Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator” (FLDSMDFR for short). The wacky food machine had created rains of food for the town so sick of nothing but sardines, but a malfunction caused on by the local gourmands brought food hurricanes and spaghetti tornadoes to the island, among other oversized food-based calamities. Flint (Bill Hader of “Turbo” and “Monsters University”) shut down his machine just in time to save the island, and “Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 2” opens in the moments just following the climax of the first film, when Flint and his band of friends are celebrating their amazing survival.

This delightful sequel is one of the rare times where a second film keeps pace with the high quality of the original; as someone who hadn’t seen the original before I caught the sequel, I was pleased that the opening brings viewers up to speed without any loss of quality in storytelling. (I managed to watch the original the day following the screening, so I am now fully up to speed!)

At the start of the film, Flint and the gang –  best friend and girlfriend Sam Sparks (Anna Faris of “Movie 43” and “Yogi Bear”), father Tim (James Caan – who needs NO introduction), clueless Brent (Andy Samberg of “SNL”), jack-of-all-trades Manny (Benjamin Bratt of “Private Practice” and “Law & Order”), earnest policeman Earl (voiced this time by Terry Crews of “Arrested Development” and “The Newsroom”), and talking monkey Steve (Neil Patrick Harris of “The Smurfs” and “How I Met Your Mother”) – are sketching their design for their own company: SPARKSWOOD. Each of the group claims a place in their new venture, giving the sense that they will stay together forever. Their happy plans are immediately interrupted by the arrival of a helicopter from LIVE Corp, the primary venture of Flint’s childhood hero: inventor Chester V (Will Forte of “SNL” and “The Cleveland Show”). A holographic Chester V emerges from the copter and explains to the townspeople that LIVE Corp has been contracted to clean up the entire island, and all they have to do is evacuate to San Franjose, where housing and jobs await them for the short period of their displacement.

Steve and Flint tour LIVE Corp headquarters with Barb

Steve and Flint tour LIVE Corp headquarters with Barb

The residents decamp for the mainland – some more grudging than others – and Flint is immediately taken under the wing of Chester V, who brings him on staff at LIVE Corp and challenges him to earn one of the coveted “Thinkquanaut” orange vests by having the best invention of all company employees. Flint throws himself into the challenge with gusto, continuing to invent silly idea after silly idea, including a day-glow, confetti laden party in a box that seems to be an IED from Party City. When Flint isn’t chosen at the “vesting” ceremony and instead accidentally detonates one of his parties in a box, Chester V realizes the time is ripe for the picking.

On the pleasant island of Swallow Falls, Chester V’s Thinkquanauts have been working hard to pick apart and find the coveted FLDSMDFR, and they’ve been having poor luck. Chester V seizes the opportunity to recruit the down-and-out Flint to find the machine himself, selling Flint on the idea that the FLDSMDFR has reactivated and has created monster cheeseburgers with french fry legs that are sure to leave the island any minute now and destroy the Statue of Liberty. Although Flint is charged with handling the task alone, Sam and his other friends – even his father – all bundle together on a boat and head out for Swallow Falls to save the world.

Steve, Flint and Sam

Steve, Flint and Sam

When they arrive, they find “foodimals”, animals derived from food in rather hilarious ways. Some are merely cute, such as the massively adorable strawberry Sam immediately names “Barry”, and others are built for easy laughs, such as the pickles that are reminiscent of South Park’s Terence and Philip. Plays on words, such as “shrimpanzees”, “susheep” and “watermelephants” provide clever visuals and excellent puns. These jokes may mostly go over kids’ heads, but playing to the entire audience is a really good thing.

Steve vs a shrimpanzee

Steve vs a shrimpanzee

Flint and co. explore the island and use varied means to locate the FLDSMDFR; Swallow Falls has turned into a foodimal Lost World with more cute than danger – but the number of pitfalls, detours and distractions is by no means small. When Chester V and his second-in-command, the unflappable chimpanzee-turned-scientist Barb (Kristen Schaal of “The Daily Show” and “30 Rock”), head out to the island to intercept and motivate Flint, cracks form in Flint’s fellowship. In the end, it’s up to more than just Flint to find a way to save Swallow Falls and his search party, and this sweet, cute film finds a way to wrap things up without putting little kids on the receiving end of too many scares.

Chester V and Flint lead the search for the FLDSMDFR

Chester V and Flint lead the search for the FLDSMDFR

I brought both of my kids to this screening, so I can say that little kiddos don’t appear to have too much to worry about from this film; there’s little frightening in it and the jokes are aimed more at adults than at kids (sailing well over the heads of my 4yo ds and 6yo dd). As to the question of whether this is a movie that should be seen in 3D, I can say that the 3D is nice but not required. The bright visuals would look just as good in 2D, and the added depth of the 3D is attractive but not necessarily worth the additional cost, if you’re not typically inclined to paying for 3D movies.

3-1/2 out of 4 stars

“Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs 3D” opens nationwide on September 27, 2013. This movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance suggested) for mild rude humor.

Movie Review: “Planes 3D”



“From above the world of Cars…” is the teaser from the promos, intended to remind potential viewers that “Planes” is another view into a beloved universe created by the folks at Pixar. This teaser ends up being rather unnecessary – since everything about the movie, from the cow-tractor cameos to the underpinnings of the storyline cherry-picks liberally from the “Cars” franchise. As it happens, while the world was created by Pixar, the movie was created by DisneyToon – originally intended as a direct-to-DVD production and then shifted to a theater release.

The movie centers on Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook of “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Good Luck Chuck”), a crop duster with dreams of becoming a racer. Dusty wants to compete in the “Wings Around the World Rally”, an around-the-globe challenge that would pit him against the world’s fastest planes. It’s a 7-leg challenge, stretching from New York City to Iceland, Germany, India, Nepal, China, and Mexico, before finishing back at the starting line in New York. In desperate need of a real trainer, Dusty and his trusty sidekick, the gasoline tanker Chug (“Everybody Loves Raymond” actor Brad Garrett), enlist war hero Skipper (Stacy Keach, a TV/movie veteran of everything from “Mistral’s Daughter” to “The Bourne Legacy”). The cranky Skipper is highly dubious that Dusty has what it takes to win, especially when it’s revealed that Dusty is terrified of heights and will only fly less than one thousand feet off the ground.


Dusty Crophopper

Dusty Crophopper


Nevertheless, Skipper trains him – and then off goes Dusty for a Rally qualifier. He manages to hold his own but initially fails to make the cut-off; however, thanks to the aerial equivalent of doping discovered in another racer, Dusty squeaks into the qualifying group and heads off for the Rally. It’s there that he meets a suite of racers from around the world – including the refined and sarcastic Bulldog (“Monty Python” icon John Cleese), the amusing and sweet El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui of “Reno 911!”), and the dastardly and arrogant Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith of “Wreck-it Ralph” and “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”).


Dusty and Ripslinger

Dusty and Ripslinger


Dusty squares off against a field of talented and much faster planes, trying to prove to himself – and to others – that a simple crop duster can manage to be something more. As Dusty explains while wistfully examining the Rally’s course on a world map, “I’ve flown thousands of miles and never been anywhere.” He struggles with his own limitations as much as others struggle with them, but the more he competes the more he’s able to stretch even his own idea of what he can and can’t do.

The only problem with “Planes” is that, as much as it’s a new production, there’s little about it that’s truly original. The concept of a young hotshot in need of guidance from someone more seasoned is territory well-mined in the relationship between Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson in the first “Cars” film. Keach’s gravelly voice makes the cantankerous Skipper a gray, aerial Doc, and the green villain, Ripslinger, was very much Chick Hicks with a propeller. Even the idea of a multi-leg, around-the-world race between a mouthy, arrogant nemesis and the good guy was well-covered in “Cars 2”.


Chug and Dottie

Chug and Dottie


The only real original bits came with El Chupacabra, especially around his romantic intentions towards Rochelle, a French Canadian plane voiced by the ever-talented Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Seinfeld” and “Veep”, among many others). The rest of the movie seemed very much a recycling of “Cars”-world motifs and storylines, sometimes with the roles reversed, but ultimately so similar that this wasn’t so much “from above the world of Cars” as it was just “from Cars”.

A cute tale with only a small amount of scary bits in it, “Planes” is a perfectly fine film for kids. The run time is just about 90 minutes, so it’s a quick enough film for viewers of all ages. Also, I saw this movie in 3D and while I’m sure it’ll be available in 2D, there’s something to be said for seeing this with the additional depth that 3D brings.

While this movie used some of the same technologies routinely employed by Pixar and even had some Pixar heavyweights in lead positions (like Executive Producer John Lasseter), this was a Disney-made movie. Clearly, the cross-over worked well from a technical execution standpoint; the renderings were nicely done, with good texture on the trees, grass and other items that have variable surfaces. The smooth surfaces of cars and airplanes tended to look too shiny and unreal – but this is how things looked in “Cars”, as well, so I’m less likely to think that a limitation of the DisneyToon team. As an approximation of a Pixar flick not from Pixar itself, this is very decent work.

For fans of “Cars” and that universe, this is a fun, brief diversion. If you’re looking for something original and breathtakingly new from Disney, this won’t really get you there…but maybe the upcoming sequel (“Planes: Fire & Rescue” – advertised at the end of the credits) will provide something new for Dusty and Co.


2 out of 4 stars


“Planes 3D” opens nationwide on August 9, 2013. This movie is rated PG (Parental Guidance suggested) for some mild action and rude humor.

Movie Trailer World Premiere: “Delivery Man”

What does family mean to me?

I was posed this question by my friend at Disney, who asked me (along with 532 other “mommy bloggers”) to participate in a unique stunt: to offer the premiere of the official trailer for the new Vince Vaughn movie on our websites. By now, y’all are used to me saying that I DO NOT shill. So, let me start this off by reminding everyone that I don’t shill and that I only write about or promote things of interest to me. Disney didn’t pay for this space and there’s no quid-pro-quo going on. I’m writing and posting this trailer because the topic is of interest to me and…really, if the trailer is an indication, this is a movie that’s got some serious promise.

Before I get back to the question at hand, let me give a brief take on what “Delivery Man” is all about. Vince Vaughn (“Swingers”, “The Internship”) plays the lead – David Wozniak – a bit of a loser, a drifter, someone who doesn’t seem to have his act quite together and who is failing at his attempts to hang onto his girlfriend (Colbie Smulders – whose jumpsuit alone stole many scenes in “Marvel’s The Avengers”). Wozniak’s life takes a decidedly left turn when he’s informed that his decades-prior sperm bank donations prolifically spawned 533 children, 142 of whom are suing the sperm bank so they can find out the name of their dad. Wozniak then stumbles through trying to learn what it means to be a dad by playing “guardian angel” to some of those kids, against the arm-waving advice of his attorney  friend, played by Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation”, “Zero Dark Thirty”).

Chris Pratt and Vince Vaughn

Wozniak gets schooled on what it means to be a parent

Clearly, the movie has some classic elements of the typical Vince Vaughn comedy – he pratfalls, he acts the oaf, he does things that make you wince and squirm in your seat because no well-adjusted person would do half of what he does. However, the movie also appears to have a strong emphasis on what it means to step up to the plate to be a dad, even when your family is as non-traditional as they come. Pratt’s character clearly provides not only the voice of caution but also that of experience: playing a dad on-screen, he’s showing what the traditional dad figure looks like, which is a stark contrast to the converted dad played by Vaughn.

Wozniak looks over profiles of his kids

Is this Vaughn’s shot to show he has range?

I can’t truly predict whether this movie will be one-star or four, but I can say that it’s intriguing to see Vaughn try to branch out into something a bit more dramatic. This has the potential to be his “Truman Show”, which displayed Jim Carrey’s solid dramatic chops in a fashion that took seemingly everybody by surprise. Having seen Vaughn be ever so money in “Swingers” years ago, and loving him as the “EARMUFFS!” dad in “Old School” and Wes Mantooth in “Anchorman”, I’d like to see if he has some serious range.

So, then, back to the idea of family…and this is where the whole Vince Vaughn piece really comes together for me. When you’re a parent, you can’t always be serious – it would be too exhausting. Kids want, need, and crave playfulness, humor and a sense that a smile is always around the corner. On the other hand, you can’t always just be a playmate – you have to provide structure and security, things that kids need but can’t create easily on their own. Family structures have evolved so much over generations, and the family image some people loudly deify as “traditional” isn’t even a century old. Go back hundreds of years and traditions involved families run by and around the mothers or grandmothers, families where multiple generations lived under the same roof, and families where children followed only in the footsteps of their father. Well, male children, at least.

What family means to me is the people that I come home to – whether that home is my house or somewhere else. For so many years before I started dating dh, my friends extended the family into which I was born; in addition to my parents and my sister, I had several close friends with whom I share everything but a common genome. Ten years ago, I decided to make a family with my best friend by marrying him, and then we expanded our family further by having dd 3 years later and ds 3 years after that. Our family unit may seem “traditional”, but I think we’re no more or less valid as a family than unmarried couples with kids, families with parents of the same gender, single parents, childless couples…

To me, family is whatever you make of it. It’s the people who support you and who love you, even when you’re driving them up the wall. Family doesn’t have to be one-man-one-woman. Families are based on love, not on chromosomal content.

So, without any further ado, here’s the official trailer for Disney’s, “Delivery Man”, which opens in theaters on November 22, 2013. And before you get any ideas about taking YOUR family to see it, please note that it is rated PG-13 for mature themes, so it’s probably not appropriate for the smallest members of your brood.