Before Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was released in theaters last fall, I had a couple of opportunities to preview footage from the film. It only hinted at the twisted and yet somehow purely earnest charms that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller embedded in ambitious inventor Flint Lockwood's fantastical story. Suffice it to say that I loved the film as a whole -- although I'm not quite sure where I would have fit it in, in retrospect I would have included it in my Top Ten of 2009 -- but of all of these sequences I saw, one had me in stitches every time and ultimately became one of my favorite scenes in any movie released last year: the snowball fight.
The scene starts innocently enough as the town's top cop, Earl Devereaux (Mr. T) asks Flint (Bill Hader) for a favor for his son Calvin's (Bobb'e J. Thompson) birthday. Flint obliges and sends ice cream snowballs raining down from the skies in all sorts of colors and flavors (in a terrific visual gag, children invade rivers of vanilla and chocolate, while only one investigates strawberry). Calvin invites Flint to join in on their snowball fight -- a concept that he's entirely unfamiliar with -- but the scientist turns mad with enthusiasm as he embraces the challenge to decimate his adversaries. What's most hilarious is not just the gleeful aggression with which Flint embraces the "rules" of a snowball fight, but the way the scene is shot: following him into a nearby home, the camera jiggles with Children of Men documentary-style kineticism as it captures him pelting adults and children alike as violently as possible with perfectly formed scoops of his favorite ice cream flavors. Check out this clip below:
Anyone who's seen the film knows this is but the tip of the film's funny-food buffet, but seldom have I seen a sequence in a family film indulge its darkest impulses with such glee, and yet not feel as if it fell into some world of seriousness that might scare or otherwise alienate its target audience.
The film was released just two weeks ago on DVD and Blu-ray, and looks as luminous on the small screen as it did in theaters, even if the producers chose not to include a 3-D iteration. But this scene, and a whole host of others in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, undeniably proves that you can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to kids' entertainment -- but it's a lot more enjoyable with a scoop of ice cream or two to the kisser.