Andy Bockelman: ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ is tasty animation
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs'
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4 stars
Length: 90 minutes
Starring the voices of: Bill Hader, Anna Faris and James Caan
Ah, disaster movies.
“Earthquake” had an earthquake. “Volcano” had a volcano.
“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” has. : Well, you see where I’m going with this.
The town of Swallow Falls is a tiny island fishing community in the middle of the ocean, located right under the A in “Atlantic.” The town’s main export, sardines, has long since gone belly up – since sardines are totally gross – leaving Swallow Falls with this single nutritional source for years.
Hometown inventor Flint Lockwood (voice of Bill Hader) is going to change all that with his latest creation, a device that changes water into food. OK, maybe his first invention, Spray-On Shoes, left his feet permanently encased in glittery goo.
And his spin on remote control television caused the TV to sprout legs and run away from home. And the less said about his stint at genetic engineering – multi-colored flying abominations dubbed “rat-birds” – the better.
But Flint is certain this time will be different.
Naturally, it isn’t, as the usual disastrous set of circumstances sends his machine rocketing toward the heavens. Just as he’s about to give up hope in himself, he notices a drop of mustard fall from the sky.
Then a pickle chip.
Before Flint knows what’s happening, the gray skies part open and it starts raining cheeseburgers.
Finally receiving recognition from the town, Flint is on top of the world utilizing his “food weather.” But it’s not too long before the community’s requests get too grandiose and even Flint can’t control the food flow.
“Saturday Night Live” star Hader does well as accident-prone dreamer Flint, who sports an exaggerated Einstein hairdo and never leaves home without his prized white lab coat.
Also by his side is his lab assistant/pet/best friend, Steve, a monkey equipped with a thought translator headband – voiced by an indistinguishable Neil Patrick Harris – that rarely captures vocabulary beyond his own name and simple keywords like “hungry” and “yellow.” Just stay out of his way when there are gummi bears in sight.
Anna Faris is particularly sweet as rookie weather girl Sam Sparks who’s one smart cookie when she’s not trying to conceal her own inherent nerdiness. Standout James Caan is agreeably gruff as Flint’s dad, Tim, a tackle shop owner whose well-meaning attempts to communicate with his boy all come out as fishing metaphors.
Hader’s fellow “SNL”er Andy Samberg is enjoyably grating as Flint’s lifelong rival, Brent, once the baby face mascot for the town’s sardine industry, who’s done nothing else with his life but milk his small town celebrity status.
The voice cast is rounded out by Will Forte, Al Roker, Benjamin Bratt, Lauren Graham and Mr. T as the overenthusiastic local lawman, whose hairstyle is the reverse of B.A. Baracus’s trademark Mohawk.
From blizzards of ice cream to a cyclone of spaghetti to a palace made of Jell-O – Try dragging the kids out of that bounce house – the ideas never stop coming in this big screen version of Judi and Ron Barrett’s children’s book. Although the story only has a loose basis, a few tributes to the book are apparent, such as the local school getting crushed by a giant pancake and the name change of the town from Swallow Falls to the more food-related Chewandswallow.
There’s not a great deal of depth in the movie’s themes, as it only scratches the surface of subjects like world hunger, human excessiveness and obesity, most notably exemplified by the town’s greedy mayor (Bruce Campbell) who quickly eats himself into near-immobility.
The prevailing moral of “follow your dreams” holds true for most of the movie, as we follow Flint’s ambitions to make the world a better place. It eventually gets to be a little hard to swallow, but as it dissolves into an agreeable father-son angle, it’s easy to digest with a pleasant aftertaste.
The prevailing flavor of “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is one of fast-paced frivolity. It’s never as heart-warming as it could be, and some of the humor is a tad scatological, but tastes vary.
Still, man-eating chickens: Who doesn’t find those funny?
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