Oscar golden boy's stab at indie rom com is just too hip by half

Timothy Barber
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&nbsp;Film<br /><strong>AWAY WE GO</strong><br />Cert: 15<br /><br />BURT and Verona are a couple of slacker thirtysomethings living in the middle of nowhere. She&rsquo;s an illustrator, he sells insurance over the phone, and mostly they knock about their beat up, backwoods house wondering what the heck they&rsquo;re going to do when Verona has her baby. Deciding they can&rsquo;t stay where they are, they head off round the states in search of the perfect place to nest down, meeting some eccentric characters along the way and learning a bit about themselves in the process.<br /><br />As you&rsquo;ll have noticed from the cheery, kooky posters around town, Away We Go is intended to be a cheery, kooky little indie-flick that will charm your socks off with its off-kilter sweetness and cosy, nonchalant sense of cool. It is exceedingly annoying.<br /><br />The director is Sam Mendes, which is suspicious in itself. The notion that Mendes, English theatrical wunderkind and thus far cinematic purveyor of cynical, connect-the-dots Oscar fodder, should be re-inventing himself as a groovy indie auteur just doesn&rsquo;t wash, and there&rsquo;s a sense that he&rsquo;s still connecting dots, albeit of a more hip and lo-fi kind. Grainy, bleached-out cinematography? Check. Constant downbeat acoustic music? Check. Laid-back, naturalistic dialogue? You bet.<br /><br />What really rankles, however, is just how perniciously misanthropic this ends up being. The oddballs and eccentrics Burt and Verona encounter on their travels, played in a series of day-glo cameos by the likes of Alison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal, are mostly damaged, awful people, freaks who drive them back into smug isolation. <br /><br />It does have its moments. Mendes is such a great director of actors that he could probably elicit a moving turn from a lamppost, and there&rsquo;s no doubting the conviction and chemistry of John Krazinski and Maya Rudolph as the hipster couple. The script, co-authored by darling of the liberal literary world, Dave Eggers, has great wit and charm when it isn&rsquo;t telling you the world is populated by freaks, losers and idiots. Away we go? Go away.<br /><br /><strong>CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS</strong><br />Cert: PG<br /><br />FINALLY proving that someone other than Pixar can make first-rate, family-friendly animated movies, Sony Pictures&rsquo; riotously enjoyable Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a rather glorious surprise. Based on a 1978 children&rsquo;s book, it tells the deliciously loopy story of an inventor who manages to make the sky rain cheeseburgers. And pizza. And pancakes. And, of course, meatballs.<br /><br />Set on a remote island in the mid-Atlantic where the inhabitants have been forced to live off sardines, the film introduces us to Flint Lockhart, a young misfit whose previous failed inventions include flying rat-birds and spray-on shoes. He creates a machine that turns water into food and becomes a celebrity (with the help of a ditzy weathergirl). Inevitably, the whole thing then goes haywire, with magnificently entertaining consequences.<br /><br />This really is a scrumptious pleasure. The action set-pieces are up there with the best that Toy Story or The Incredibles have to offer, while the anarchic humour is satisfyingly free of in-jokes &ndash; this is a film in which kids and adults will laugh at the same moments, and laugh a lot. <br /><br />The plot twists and turns like a plate of spaghetti, the animation is superb with some truly diverting imagery, and the sense of invention and fun is constant. A goofy, anarchic feast for the senses.<br />