Meatballs falling from the sky? It seemed as though Sony Pictures had stooped to dishing out a ridiculous plot line to turn a buck. Having never heard of this children’s book, the movie posters and even the name “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” always got an eye roll from me when I came across them. But to my utter surprise and sheer pleasure, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs threw all my preconceptions out the window within the very first delicious 3D scene and won my vote as the best family movie to have hit the big screen this year.
The story, based on a children’s book with the same name by Ron and Judi Barrett, revolves around young inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader). Flint lives on Swallow Falls, a tiny island just off the east coast that has fallen into hard times, forcing all it’s residents to survive on a constant diet of sardines.
Flint has been coming up with inventions ever since he was a kid. His inventions always look good on paper, but never quite turn out right, earning him a heap of ridicule and teasing. His latest invention is a machine that he hopes will solve the sardine crisis on Swallow Falls by turning water into food. Through a myriad of mishaps this invention miraculously works, causing all kinds of tasty treats to fall from the sky. Flint becomes a local hero, drawing attention from all over — and putting Swallow Falls back on the map. But when the machine spins out of control and threatens to bury the whole world under giant mounds of food, Flint finds he may have bitten off more than he can chew. We come along as Swallow Falls takes on spaghetti tornadoes, an ice cream snow-day, and meatballs big enough to make Indiana Jones sweat.
The choices for the voice actors were just as pleasantly surprising as the plot. Bill Hader was fantastic. He transitioned his comedic timing and wonderfully odd humor into a dialog that’s enjoyable for any age group. Anna Faris plays an intern-turned-weather reporter that was sent to cover the curious new conditions in Swallow Falls. She is also the love interest, but Faris, Hader, and the screenwriters keep it light-hearted. James Caan plays Flint’s father, Benjamin Bratt is a Guatemalan cameraman, and Andy Samberg is the local bully, Brent. But the most hilarious characters were those of Mr. T, Neil Patrick Harris, and Bruce Campbell. T is Officer Devereaux, the local fuzz that jumps around like a neurotic ninja and has chest hair that acts like a spidey-sense. Harris plays Flint’s pet monkey Steve, who can speak through a mechanical voice box. Last but not least, Bruce Campbell shines as Mayor Shelbourne, who enjoys the new weather just a little too much.
There are just so many praise-worthy aspects of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. There’s an intelligence to the humor that you just don’t see often enough in family movies. This allows kids, parents, teenagers, and grandparents to all laugh together without having any uncomfortable moments spawning from humor either too mature or that belongs at the Klump’s dinner table. Instead of feeling like a gimmicky grasp for ticket sales, the 3D effect is integrated seamlessly into the animation and actually adds depth and immersion to the already magnificent graphics. It also has quite a few lessons that kids can take away from it, including self confidence, teamwork, and portion control.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is clean, smart, and just plain funny. The story takes you on a delightful ride that will keep you laughing and invested, as it plunges around surprising twists and turns. This isn’t a movie with deep hidden messages about pollution, emissions, immigration, or saving the polar bears. This is an homage to the days when movies were made to simply remove you from your day to day worries and bring in a little sunshine. Whether you are 6 or 60, have kids or don’t, liberal or conservative, you will enjoy this movie. This is definitely a must see for everyone this year, and will go down in history as a classic film for all ages.
I give Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 5 ‘Sugar-Coma Cures’ out of 5.