National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks & Passes 1.03.2010

BY Steven D. Greydanus

January 3-16, 2010 Issue | Posted 12/27/09 at 11:42 AM

 

Cloudy With a Chance

of Meatballs (2009)

Moon (2009)

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2006)


Supremely silly yet peppered with unexpected sophistication and wit, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs works harder and flies higher than you’d think, and it is easily one of the year’s better family films.

New this week on DVD, Cloudy is available in a Blu-ray/DVD combo that’s well worth getting even if you don’t have a Blu-ray player yet.

More inspired by than based on the popular storybook by Judi and Ron Barrett, the story focuses on Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a young inventor who longs to prove himself to his skeptical hometown, including his taciturn father. Then there’s weather-channel intern Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), whose perky exterior masks a serious interest in meteorology.

Cloudy is unexpectedly generous to one-joke characters like a spoiled former child star and an overzealous cop who turns out to be a loving family man doting on his son — a counterpoint, of course, to Flint’s father (who does get a humanizing final act). Hey, how often does a father in a Hollywood cartoon hear his son say, “I know you love me, Dad — you tell me every day”?

Among next week’s DVD releases are a pair of thoughtful indies for grown-ups. Moon is a throwback to the 2001: A Space Odyssey era of philosophically serious science-fiction films — a smart, existential sci-fi drama with one on-screen actor that runs 97 minutes and goes nowhere more exotic than our planet’s natural satellite.

Made for a mere $5 million, director Duncan Jones’ debut film takes an intimate, personal look at the sort of existential questions of identity and human nature that films like Solaris and Blade Runner raised on grander scales.

Without giving anything away, Sam Rockwell plays a mining contractor on the far side of the moon whose experiences touch on issues from the deconstruction of human nature and the commodification of human life to existential loneliness, alienation and the dehumanizing effects of corporate ruthlessness.

Returning to DVD, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is one of the best films of 2006, an utterly charming, droll tale of an unlikely friendship between an elderly widow (delightful Joan Plowright) and a charming young slacker (Rupert Friend).

Dan Ireland’s indie comedy is sensitive to the plight of the elderly and neglected yet suggests that the elderly have as much to offer the young as to gain from them. Trust me: You’ll be glad you saw it.


Content advisory: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: Occasional mild rude humor. Fine family viewing. Moon: Recurring profane and obscene language; some bloody injuries and violent illness; brief bedroom-scene imagery (nothing explicit); a shower scene with brief rear nudity. Mature viewing. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont: Mild profanity and crude language, a couple of brief, nonmarital bedroom scenes (no nudity). Mature viewing.