The Popcorn Reel
Friday, October 2, 2009

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Food, Glorious Food, Weather You Like It Or Not

Anna Faris voices weather forecaster Sam Sparks and Bill Hader voices Flint Lockwood in "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs", which
opened two weeks ago in the U.S. and Canada.  (Photo: Sony Pictures Animation)

By Omar P.L. Moore/
Friday, October 2, 2009

"Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs", which opened last month, is cute and very funny until the food avalanche becomes far too much to bear.  Until then the pun-filled, color-saturated fun fest (complete with 3D vision) is one of the more entertaining animated efforts that Sony Pictures animation has put together.  The film is directed and written by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, based on the book written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett.

Mr. T makes a welcome return to the big screen as the voice of Earl Devereaux, a police officer in the town of Swallow Falls, where there's a down-on-his luck inventor with father issues who wants to be recognized for his own handiwork.  The inventor's dad (James Caan) owns a bait and tackle business where sardines are the order of the day.  The son in question is Flint Lockwood (a play on Clint Eastwood?), voiced by Bill Hader of Saturday Night Live.  Flint has failed at inventions but his life changes abruptly after an inadvertent shift: his mad scientist tendencies have enabled him to invent a machine that makes food fall out of the sky like rain.  A trip to the supermarket or grocery store will never become necessary again. 

If the ozone layer is the way it is look no further, the filmmakers ever so subtly suggest, than all the junk food that pollutes it.  This is a cheeky way of conveying message filmmaking, but it is effective.  The dangers of excess and overindulgence are perfect metaphors for corrupt fat cat politicians (such as the mayor depicted by the voice of Bruce Campbell.)  When food rains down in torrents on Swallow Falls, U.S.A. and worldwide -- it would have been interesting to see the falling food and its effects in the most malnourished parts of the African continent -- it's arguably more grotesque and powerful than much of what transpired in Richard Linklater's 2006 film "Fast Food Nation".  Food, and lots of it, can literally kill, and although this is an animated film played for laughs what we see is occasionally disturbing if not repulsive.  One character of interest is the town's television weather forecaster Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris) whose static, humdrum career gets an unexpected boost when the food farce occurs and she becomes a front-and-center presence, joining Flint in one of the most unlikely adventures a journalist could ever wish to have.

As with other 3D-animated films like the immensely successful "Up" earlier this year, "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" is not made or marred by its 3D scope; it is entertaining on its own merits.  "Coraline" is one of the few animated films this year where 3D is an integral part of the film and its effects, and this new film has a cautionary message warning of the consequences of environmental waste that resonates, especially in the film's otherwise flagging second half. 

With the voices of: Andy Samberg, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Lauren Graham, Al Roker, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris and Angela Shelton.

"Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association Of America for brief mild language.  There are some scenes which may be disturbing for young or older viewers, however.  The film's running time is one hour and 30 minutes.

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