Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsReleased: September 18, 2009. Directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Starring: Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell. Runtime: 90 min.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is, I’ll admit, much better than I thought it would be. I had no interest in seeing it when it was initially released, because it sounded a bit too silly for my tastes. But then I realized the guys who are behind this movie, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, directed one of my favourite action comedies of the last few years, “21 Jump Street.”

So, I thought I’d give it a shot since it was playing on television. And, if I get the chance to see the sequel, I can – because now I’ve seen the original. The premise is simple, adapted from an apparently beloved children’s story written by Judi Barrett. I’m not sure if it’s a good adaptation or not, but the basic ‘I wanna be something!’ character arc is present.

The main character, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), has been inventing unsucessful, but sorta awesome, things all of his life – and that’s his dream, to be a revered inventor. His father (James Caan) disapproves of the choice, as he doesn’t understand his son as well as his late wife did.

He finally gets his shot with a machine that turns water into any kind-of food that you desire. He manages to inadvertantly launch his machine into rain clouds, after a run-in with the law, and it rains cheeseburgers. This puts the island below the ‘A’ of Atlantic Ocean on the map; even though the town was previously known for its sardines, until everyone realized they are gross. The mayor of the  town (voiced by Bruce Campbell) sees this as an opportunity to make Swallow Falls a real tourist hot spot; so he aggressively urges Flint to make it rain three meals a day. The news reporter, Sam Sparks (Anna Farris) who is in town, becomes a weather girl and takes advantage of this weather phenomenon.

While the delicious food makes the townspeople happy, the excessive use of the machine can dangerously mutate the food, but the shady mayor ignores Flint’s pleas to make it stop; by telling him the whole town loves him. As expected, chaos ensues – on the day when spaghetti and meatballs are the main course.

The premise is effectively simple, and allows really colourful scenery to happen. I like the animation a lot, even though the character design for Flint makes him look like an odd type of bird. The character design for the acrobatic police officer Earl Devereaux is truly clever. He is voiced by Mr. T, and he has a T-shaped bald spot. Bill Hader, Anna Faris and even James Caan aren’t particularly memorable. It’s a good thing that Mr. T, Bruce Campbell, Neil Patrick Harris and the purposefully irrtating Andy Samberg are there, because they balance out the voicework and make it better. Neil Patrick Harris plays the role of a scene-stealing monkey named Steve, who can speak through the invention of Flint’s. This film is silly and fun for the kids, and there’s enough clever humour to keep older folk mildly entertained.

Score70/100

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Grown Ups 2 (2013)

GROWN UPS 2Release Date: July 12, 2013. Director: Dennis Dugan. Stars: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade. Runtime: 102 min.

The mystery of why Adam Sandler has never previously done a sequel has been solved. “Grown Ups 2” is worst than his average movie, but it’s about on par with “Jack and Jill“. (That’s no compliment if you’ve seen “J&J”.) If Sandler has become one thing lately, it is reliable. We can always rely on him to bring us one of the year’s worst comedies. If anyone was hoping for a Sandler movie game-changer with this one, they’ll only receive something familiar. “Grown Ups” is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I don’t know how anyone could find pleasure in this.

There isn’t any plot. If one has trouble describing the plot of this film’s predecessor in casual conversation, they’ll damn well blow a blood vessel trying to explain this film’s plot. Even the people over at IMDb don’t know what this is about. Even the filmmakers don’t know what this one is about! The IMDb plot is this: After moving his family back to his hometown to be with his friends and their kids, Lenny (Adam Sandler) finds out that between old bullies, new bullies, schizophrenic bus drivers, drunk cops on skis, and 400 costumed party crashers sometimes crazy follows you.

Yup. It’s as stupid as it sounds. It just feels like a bunch of comedy skits thrown together. Just because one’s main cast (Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade) is composed of SNL veterans, does not mean it should feel like a long episode of Saturday Night Live. I have been told that SNL sketches range from bad to good to the occasional great. The sketches here are just plain bad.

This film is at its funniest when Sandler channels mannerisms similar to Billy Madison. It’s also funny when Jon Lovitz shows up as a character that is very similar to the pervert he played in “Little Nicky”. Sandler is showing us that he and his friends can still be funny with their observational humour; so why is there so much god-awful, low-brow humour in here? The good moments are hidden in so much utter dreck, that they are cancelled out. At the somewhat funny jokes later on, I wanted to laugh – but I only could bring myself to smirk slightly. I knew that for that one decent joke, there will be twenty-five pathetic attempts at humour. Seeing Sandler’s comic genius in his recent movies is as rare as seeing the sun on a cloudy day; you might see it once or twice, but then again, your mind is probably just playing tricks on you.

“Grown Ups 2” reaches to the bottom of the barrel for its laughs. There’s many jokes including bodily functions: peeing, pooping, vomiting, masturbation, and a running joke about trying to burp, sneeze and fart simultaneously, coined by Kevin James… I’m not sure why anyone would laugh at it. But then again, some of the people in my audience laughed at the mere sight of the deer in Lenny’s bedroom. (Oh yeah. The thought of a deer being in a bedroom instead of the wild is real hysterical. Since he’s not supposed to be there, it’s an odd occurence that’s supposed to make the audience laugh, apparently!) At least the only recycled joke is someone peeing in the pool and a mist of blue shows up. This time, though, it doesn’t make much sense because 1) it’s a myth, and 2) if there was such a chemical, there’s really no need to put it one’s own private pool.

There are a lot of visual gags to “Grown Ups 2”. Markus has a thirteen year-old son (the terrible Alexander Ludwig) who has a beard. The joke seems to be that Ludwig is supposed to be terrible as a 21-year-old playing a 13-year-old; but there isn’t anything funny going on there. He has a bunch of “tattoos” that are practically permanent marker. It’s ridiculous. I’ll have an easier time believing that Maggie Grace can convincingly play an eighteen year-old. There’s also a main gag where the family of Malcolm (Tim Meadows) is all bald. Everyone is losing their hair. His wife and son have noses that look like they’re made out of Play Doh. I get it. They’re funny looking. They say “Whaaaaat?” whenever they get offended. It’s supposed to be funny. But nothing about them is funny. The joke is rather excruciating.

Since there are so many celeb cameos here, it makes me believe Sandler thinks featuring these celebrities in his movie is a punchline. There are many familiar faces; his buddies Nick Swardson and Peter Dante show up. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD, BUT THESE CAMEOS HAVE BEEN IN EVERY TV SPOT.) Shaquille O’Neal has an extended cameo. Will Forte, Andy Samberg and Taran Killam, among others, wash Lamansoff’s car, in a scene where you’ll just want to look away. To the sound of Warrant’s “Sweet Cherry Pie”, no less. Taylor Lautner shows up as an annoying Frat boy who barks, flips around, and has a stupid handshake with Milo Ventimiglia. (Even though he’s good on TV’s “Heroes”, I’ve grown to hate him after seeing him here and in “That’s My Boy“.) (END OF MINOR SPOILERS.) Sorry, Sandler, this won’t make many of us laugh. These people are celebrities. Celebrities are in movies, because they’re famous. It’s nothing new.

There is a line of stupidity movies just cannot cross. “Grown Ups 2” crosses it, and then some. I like stupid comedy. You’ll find a lot of stupidity going on in this god-awful film, but only a limited amount of comedy. Sandler’s latest is the poster child for stupid comedies. It begins with a deer pissing on Adam Sandler and ends with a seriously dumb bodily function joke. If that sounds like something you’d find hysterical; well, then, you might have to re-evaluate your taste in movies.

Score: 12/100

I do usually like Adam SandlerI’m considering watching all of Adam Sandler’s movies, and re-watch the ones I can stand to watch again, and review them. In the meantime, here are my reviews of some Adam Sandler films that have received good scores: 50 First Dates” (2004), “Billy Madison” (1995).

That’s My Boy (2012)

That's My BoyThat’s My Boy

Release Date: June 15, 2012

Director: Sean Anders

Stars: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester

Runtime: 116 min

Tagline: The story of a child… and his son.

Sandler should be put in jail for theft, for the theft of my time, that is!
While in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd, a.k.a. Han Solo (Andy Samberg), and raised him up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Donny’s irresponsibility is transferred to his adult life, where he is ignorant enough not to pay his taxes for a few years. He must come up with $43, 000 within a week’s notice, or else he’ll have to face jail time. He then finds this TV host who says he’d pay Donny that sum of money if he could get his son and the the former teacher that “molested” him to do a reunion show.

That’s where it all begins. Donny must find his son and try to convince him to do the show, but he then tries to desperately reconnect with his son in some way. He shows up in his son’s life inappropriately right before his wedding, right when all the in-laws and friends are down. Everyone thinks Todd’s parents died in a car accident, and they think Donny is only Todd’s best friend.

Oh yeah, it’s the old generic tale: Find the son. Try to bond, but the son’s reluctant. He feels the father never cared for him. The father shows him he cares in some way. They’re all content with being each other’s lives. Something happens. Then in the end, you’re taught that family is the most important thing. You get the picture, yada-yada. Leave it to Adam Sandler to use one of the most generic comedy formulas in the book.

You may be asking yourselves – why would I voluntarily put myself through this?

Do I like self-inducing pain onto myself? Not particularly. Was I sort of curious as to how bad, or how good this might turn out to be? Moderately. Most of all, I wanted my brain to take a vacation with a simple-minded comedy. Usually, when I want to watch a generic and predictable comedy, I like my brain to just turn off practically completely. But you know, not to a point where I’m dead. It helps me relax. But, with this one, my brain couldn’t turn off. Yes, it was simple and mindless – but it was also obnoxious and pointless. I just kept thinking; this is so bad. When is it going to end?

Think of my brain vacation like this: I like my brain to take a vacation to an exotic place like Hawaii or something. A place that can offer me plenty of laughs, some fun, sexy girls, and one that could offer me entertainment throughout. Instead, my brain sort of went to a town in Eastern Europe that no one likes. A place that is dirty, pointless, nightmarish, a place that no one would want to go to,  and a place you just want to get out of; there are a few sexy women in here, though, so regarding that – it’s Eastern Europe with sexy women.

Adam Sandler tries to return to his roots here by bringing back that child in a man’s body character. He tries to mix it with the modern crude and rude comedy of today, and it doesn’t really work. Unlike the great characters of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, Donny is obnoxious – but in an unfunny way. The jokes are tasteless and I might have laughed once or twice in a near-two hour feature. The plot is just ridiculous, and when a plot line of incest gets brought into the picture, I draw the imaginary line in the sand.

The characters are poor. Especially the character of Donny and Todd. They both try to be funny, but they’re both not. Also, Leighton Meester hasn’t yet started to dish out any likeable characters (with the exception of her character in Country Strong). Everyone else isn’t notable. The cast is only okay, but you won’t get Oscar performances from an Adam Sandler comedy. However, apparently there will be Oscar nominees and Oscar winners in here. How on earth did Sandler convince one-time Oscar nominee James Caan and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon to be in this?

It’s nice to see that Sandler tried to make his own project, here. He didn’t involve many of his buddies – there was only Nick Swardson, Blake Clark and Will Forte. Also, the director, Sean Anders (Sex Drivehasn’t worked with Sandler before this feature. I doubt he’ll want to work for him again, though.
That’s My Boy tried to be funny, but it’s really one of the stupidest movies I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. There is a few laughs to be had, but that’s about it. The laughs that come are one from Sandler and one from the cross-eyed caveman looking Swardson. I should really put “I finished That’s My Boy” on my resumé, I’m pretty sure I’d get hired anywhere. It shows real patience, because I just kept waiting for it to get good. Guess what? It never came. This is an improvement on last year’s Jack and Jill or Bucky Larson (but that isn’t really an impressive feat, everything’s a step up from those) but it’s worse than Grown Ups (laugh-wise, this one at least had a plot line – no matter how pointless). This is just yet another film that says Sandler’s career is in a hole, and I really hopes he finds that shovel, to dig him out of it, sometime soon.

Consider yourselves warned. 

20/100