Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

All stories, be they novels, vignettes, movies, poems, or any number of media by which tales are told, start out as ideas. “Hey, what if…” “Wouldn’t it be cool…” “Ok, so there’s this guy…” In the motion picture realm, these ideas can lead to horrendous results (“Robots that turn into cars!” “A talking duck!” “Let’s turn this video game into a movie!“), but often something emerges that turns out to be not entirely awful, but not entirely awesome. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs takes a wonderfully simple premise, adds a generous portion of strained father-son relationship, mixes in a dash of biting wit, blends it with razor-sharp dialog, and topps the whole concoction off with some truly excellent celebrity voice acting to produce one of the most surprisingly entertaining and downright enjoyable movies I have watched in a long time.

Consider this most basic of ideas, something that would seem to have taken shape on a third-grade playground:  What if you could make it rain food?  Turns out the execution of such a premise, when put on celluloid with the magic of CGI animation, is brilliantly entertaining.  Based on the bestselling children’s book of the same, Meatballs tells the story of idealistic young inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a post-teenage ADHD case with his head in the clouds and his mind lost somewhere between ambition and common sense.  A resident of the small island nation of Swallow Falls (located just under the “A” in “Atlantic Ocean”), he wants to solve his homeland’s problem of surplus sardines by inventing a machine that creates food–any type of food–from nothing but water.  Part of what makes this such a fun movie is its offbeat sense of humor, tongue-in-cheek scriptwriting, and a keen sense of self-awareness that many other animated movies lack.  Flint’s daring but woefully impractical inventions run the gamut of wide-eyed elementary school notebook drawings:  spray-on shoes, robotic TVs, rat/bird hybrids, and other whimsical creations that somehow seem perfectly at home in the irreverent setting of this animated adventure.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Flint, Sam, Steve

Sam, Flint, and Steve the talking monkey pondering the meaning of life.

What makes this movie stand out from the crowd is its heart.  Flint is an eminently relatable protagonist, and his eternal optimism is infectious.  His mother, the most vocal champion of his inventions, passes away when he is young, and he grows up with a father who does not understand him and just wants him to work at the local bait and tackle shop.  Never one to settle, Flint refuses to give up on his inventions until his food creation machine wreaks havoc at a local ribbon-cutting ceremony.  But soon he realizes that the machine actually functions better than he thought possible, as it begins raining all kinds of culinary creations from the sky.  I’m not kidding, either–virtually every type of food one can fathom drops from the heavens in this movie, and it’s such an outrageous premise that you can’t help but smile as it all happens.

Rounding out the cast is TV weather reporter Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), greedy mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell!) and devoted police officer Earl Devereaux (voiced by none other than Mr. T himself).  All do a fantastic job in their roles, bringing their characters to life with gleeful aplomb that is so often missing in by-the-numbers hollywood cartoon movies these days.  And as Lockwood’s invention begins to spiral out of control, we also once

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Tim Lockwood

Flint's dad Tim, trying to work a computer.

again learn the classic animated movie lesson that people are often far more than they appear on the surface–except those evil politicians, though.  Everyone knows they are just as greedy, shallow, and singleminded as they appear because movies like this have been telling us that since we were kids.

Sure things are predictable, and one could probably map out the basic plot after watching the first ten minutes of the movie, but the fun of Meatballs is the wonderful excess to which it lets itself travel.  Swallow Falls becomes literally buried in absolutely ginormous portions of food, and the world itself is threatened with annhillation by means of spaghetti hurricanes, skyscraper-flattening pancakes, and cheese logs the size of farm silos.  And like the best movies out there, this one just asks you to stop thinking logically and start thinking like a third-grader:  just sit back, relax, let the beautiful ridiculousness of this wonderfully executed idea wash over you like a wave of melted ice cream, and enjoy the ride.


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Rating: 3.7/5 (6 votes cast)