Be warned that Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs is definitely a movie geared towards a young audience. It’s fun and colourful and the rugrats at the screening I attended seemed to love it. This is not to say adults won’t like it. There is some great dialogue and visual gags and I actually found it to be more enjoyable than other recent animated fare like 9, Monsters vs. Aliens and (gasp) Up.
Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is an inspired young scientist who lives on Swallow Falls – a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (or under the “A” in “Atlantic” on a map). Swallow Falls is famous for, and survives on, its sardine industry. Flint is famous for inventions-gone-wrong (spray-on shoes that can’t be removed and a robotic television set that runs away are two of his finest). When the world realizes that sardines are gross, Swallow Falls hits rock bottom. That is until Flint tries his hand at his latest invention – a machine that turns water into food – and it actually works!
Sent to cover the opening of a sardine amusement park on Swallow Falls, Weather News Network intern Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) is live on-scene when Flint’s machine kicks into action and food starts to fall from the sky. Soon, images of cheeseburger rain are broadcast around the world and the mayor of Swallow Falls (voiced by the great Bruce Campbell) decides to cash in on this phenomenon by turning their island into a tourist destination. Flint starts taking requests – bacon and eggs, pancakes, hot dogs, ice cream, steak, candy – anything and everything. Tourism picks up and soon Swallow Falls is bustling again.
But not for long. Disaster looms as the machine becomes overloaded and malfunctions with too many requests; falling food gets larger, and the final calamity – a spaghetti-and-meatball tornado – touches down and things spiral out of control. The machine now has a mind of its own and the entire planet is about to be destroyed by one massive food shower – and it’s up to Flint to save face and stop it.
Based on the book by Judi and Ron Barrett, there is much to like about Meatballs. The animation and 3-D effects are stunning and the voice casting is perfect. Besides Hader, Faris and Campbell, James Caan lends his chops as Flint’s monobrow dad, and Andy Samberg voices an ex-child star. Neil Patrick Harris has a small role as Flint’s pet monkey Steve, and Mr. T is awesome as Earl Devereaux, Swallow Falls’s lone cop.
Although I enjoyed the disaster-movie riffs (a food avalanche and the above-mentioned spaghetti-and-meatball tornado are both very clever, as is the idea of food falling from the sky like meteors), there are a lot of underlying messages in Meatballs that work too: the strained relationship Flint has with his dad, how being yourself is more important than fitting in, and, of course, how overeating is dangerous (the Mayor shoves everything in his mouth until he can’t even walk anymore).
Bottom line: this is a smart movie the whole family will enjoy and is a must-see on the big screen in 3-D.
**** out of 5 stars