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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Review

By Joe Lozito

It's Raining Menu


Watching a movie in 3D requires a certain fondness for wearing an ill-fitting pair of your grandfather's smudged sunglasses for 90 minutes. It's a commitment; if you're going to do it, the movie better at least be worth it. While much of the recent 2D animated fare in theaters has been some of the best stuff out there (particularly if it bears the name Pixar), cinematic forays into the third-dimension tend to be gimmicky ("Beowulf", "Journey to the Center of the Earth"). Of course, this has been the case since the dawn of those cardboard red and blue glasses half a century ago. And though the glasses are still required, the technology has vastly improved in recent years. The latest entry is "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", a delightfully witty, feature-length adaptation of the children's book by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett.

From the opening voice-over, during which our hero asks, "have you ever felt different than everyone else?", it's clear we're in "kid's movie" territory. But the writers, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who also directed, gleefully ride that thin line between kid-friendly wowza and adult-friendly in-jokes. The characters are simplistic and relatable, and the pop culture references abound (look for great riffs on "The Twilight Zone", "Aliens", and, I think, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"). The script is packed with quick banter and cheeky puns ("You've heard of a meteor shower, but this is a meatier shower"), and still has time to squeeze in jokes the kids won't get for years ("amuse bouche" and "carpe diem" are both thrown in).

The story follows Flint Lockwood, a young dreamer on the remote island of Swallow Falls (it's located under the "A" in "Atlantic Ocean" on the map). Flint's an oddball who hopes to become the world's greatest inventor. And, really, he does have a gift. Sure, his spray-on shoes (to combat the untied shoelace epidemic) can't be removed, and his rat-bird mash-up was ill-advised from the start, but he also has the know-how to create a machine that can generate food from ordinary water. During an experimental test-run, the machine is rocketed into the stratosphere, leading to the titular weather system (among other entrees). And this is all in the first 20 minutes.

"Cloudy" is packed with humor, lively animation and spry vocal talent. Bill Hader and Anna Faris voice Flint and his weather-girl love interest. And Mr. T (yes, Mr. T is back!) does some memorable work as the town's one policeman. All of that is enough to distract you from the inherent issues with the premise: with a global water shortage, the basis of Flint's machine is problematic. Plus, though the issue of "leftovers" is touched on, the rotting-food situation is never really dealt with. On the other hand, the film may spark lively debate from Vegetarians. After all, technically, meat is no longer murder. It's weather. Discuss.

Of course, topics like water shortages probably (ok, definitely) shouldn't be brought up in a review of a film with "Chance of Meatballs" in the title. The film doesn't have the emotional heft to take its place among the great animated classics, but who cares? The animation is eye-popping at times, particularly during the cloudbursts. Yes, the bad guy is fairly rote and the resolution is goofy, but in "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs", when it rains, it soars.

What did you think?

Movie title Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Release year 2009
MPAA Rating PG
Our rating
Summary Delightfully witty, feature-length adaptation of the popular children's book doesn't have the emotional heft to take its place among the great animated classics, but when it rains it soars.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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