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'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' Isn't Deep, But It's Entertaining

September 16th, 2009 11:16am EDT
Cloudy With a Chance of MeatballsAn animated film described as "a kids movie that the parents will enjoy" is becoming a bit of a hackneyed characterization. Really, what animated film in 2009 isn't described like that? And lately it's not even true. Are "Wall-E" and "Up" really kids films? Wouldn't it be better to describe those films as "parent films that kids will enjoy ?"

The underlying messages in recent Pixar films are too broad to ignore or simply write off as kid films. Is it even possible to have a children's film today without some deep-seated communiqué about saving the planet? Enter "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is based on a popular children's book written in 1978. It is not a Pixar film. It's not trying to be a Pixar film. There's not really much of a deeper message hidden in all of the falling food - unless the message of "eating a lot of food will make you fat" is considered "deep."

Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is a bit of a screw-up. Sure, he's an inventor, but his inventions are, well, not very good (spray on shoes, anyone?) His father Tim (James Caan) wants Flint to join him in running the family sardine business. Flint wants no part of it. He has dreams! And they don't involve sardines!

Flint, kind of by accident, develops a quasi looking hovering satellite that can convert the precipitation in clouds into any food that Flint programs it to make. At first Flint is a hero. But the growing greed of the townsfolk of Chewandswallow - led by the ever expanding Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell) - and the never ending slew of requests make the machine go haywire. It begins producing larger and larger food items and soon production expands beyond Chewandswallow, leading to, eventually, a worldwide crises.

While Officer Devereaux (Mr. T) and his son Cal (Bobb'e J. Thompson) evacuate the town, Flint, reporter (and love interest) Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) - who gets her big break by being in town when the food started falling - her cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt), and former child sardine spokesman 'Baby' Brent (Andy Samberg) set off on a mission to stop the destructive (and delicious!) power of Flint's invention.

As an homage to disaster films - the directors admit that one of their favorite films is "Earthquake" - this is a film that will keep any adult entertained with constant nods to that genre. This includes the first reveal of the food cloud as the camera pans to each character, making the dramatic slow-look-over-the-shoulder then scream maneuver. It's even funnier as audiences see it happen for the tenth time.

This was a film made for 3-D; the falling food jumping off the screen is more than impressive. There are a couple gratuitous "Oh, the food is right in front of my face!" shots but, thankfully, it's not overdone. The message here seems to be moderation and that sometimes it's nice to have people be proud of you. Nothing too heavy. Unless, of course, you count the 10-foot-long hot dogs.

Grade: B+





Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

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Mike Ryan
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at miker@starpulse.com
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