Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Movies based on books of the same name often suffer from dozens of ailments. It’s only 1 in every 15 or so that make for an equally entertaining movie going experience and that’s only assuming they have screenwriters and directors that do them justice. And Harry Potter doesn’t count. Right now books seem to be a more fertile landscape for scripts than ever before, so it’s inevitable that your favorite will make it to screen eventually. For me, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is one of those books.
Cloudy, the book, was a bedtime story told from a grandfather to his grandson about the town of Chewandswallow, a burg like no other where hunger is never a problem because food would literally rain down onto the citizens. Restaurants had no roofs and the most promising career was in waste management and street cleaning. The book is known more for its whimsical illustrations than an engrossing story which may be why the film version was so easy to enjoy. Building a tale around the fictional ramblings of an old man who just wants the kids to fall asleep gives a freedom to filmmakers to explore the why’s and who’s of the city without trampling the original authors’ intents.
Cloudy, the movie, is about Flint Lockwood, an ambitious young inventor who, despite being stuck in a lilting cannery town, keeps trying to create the next great invention. His father doesn’t exactly encourage his son, but he doesn’t hinder him either, he just has a hard time expressing his feelings. Flint has a breakthrough one day on a machine that turns water into food that makes him a celebrity almost over night and grabs not only the attention of the greedy mayor but of a young weather reporting intern. Things get out of hand when the mayor’s gluttony for power and Flint’s eagerness to be accepted causes the machine to become increasingly dangerous and the food more destructive.
A lot of the story is about accepting who you are without losing sight of what you want in life, but it’s told in such a way that you never really cringe at the tired old moral. Simply put, you’ll be laughing too hard to notice. Cloudy is genuinely funny and riddled with references to other films and television, enough to get an adult chuckling without skimping on the kiddy comedy. An unusual voice crew certainly helps: Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, Bill Hader, Bruce Campbell and even Mr. T… yes THE Mr. T, lend their vocals to the more colorful of the city’s residents.
Visually, the movie is vibrant and interesting. It’ll take a repeat showing just to pick up all the inconspicuous elements and background jokes strewn around. The food is the focus and it shows. Care was put into making the spaghetti tornado splatter around authentic looking marinara and when a massive slab of bacon is used as a landing strip, you just might find yourself salivating.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is one of those rare, wide-age-range appealing movies that doesn’t offend or bore the audience. Nor does it tarnish the classic children’s book many of us grew up with. It may not be up to Pixar standards (lacks emotional punch), but it stands head and pork-shoulders above Sony Pictures Animation’s other films. Go see it. I recommend having seconds.