In September of this year, Sony Pictures will release Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which tragically seems to bear almost no resemblance to the book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. First published in 1978, written by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ron Barrett, the book is charming, scary and goofy all at once. It was a staple bedtime story in my house when I was growing up.
The trailer for “Cloudy” shows the story of a clumsy mad scientist who invents a machine that turns water into food, then unleashes it upon his unsuspecting town. In the original book, we listen in with two kids as grandpa tells the tale of Chewandswallow, a town where three square meals a day rain down from the sky – a perfectly lovely, if strange, place to live – until suddenly everything goes haywire. Which story do you want to hear more? I don’t understand the obsession with throwing gadgetry into every single kids’ movie out there. The book is notably without gadgets (the denizens of Chewandswallow end up floating out to sea on large pieces of toast). The idea of making houses out of giant bagels and sailboats out of sandwiches sparks a kind of creativity that is absent from the story of an inventor who comes up with a big box with blinking lights that does something improbable.
I’m reminded of Marc Hirsh’s thoughtful response to the Watchmen film over at Monkey See. He asks why we need to turn everything into a movie – especially perfectly good graphic novels that have an artistic life of their own. What are picture books, anyway, other than graphic novels for kids?
For an example of how NOT to ruin a beloved childhood book in trailer form, check out the creepy, musty, delightful trailer for Where the Wild Things Are. Much has been made of this trailer, and how good the movie MUST be. I’m going to reserve judgment, but there’s a warmth to the “Wild Things” trailer that is missing from “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” The aesthetic reminds me of the old Jim Henson “Storyteller” series: