Through a slew of animated family films released in 2009, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs may not stand out as exceptional, but its colorful pallet, upbeat nature, and entertaining characters make it enjoyable and worth seeing.
Through his trials and errors, aspiring scientist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has never accomplished much, just like his home town/island of Swallow Falls. Flint’s mom, Fran (Lauren Graham), believed in him and his scientific experiments, but his father, Tim (James Caan), with his bushy eyebrows and mustache, would rather Flint join him in the family business running a tackle & bait shop. Flint’s experiments, from spray-on shoes to ratbirds, have failed him, and Swallow Falls isn’t doing any better. Sardines, their main export, has slumped in sales since everyone in the world realized how terrible they taste. In a last-ditch effort, Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell) aims to open Sardine Land, an amusement park that’s as terrible as it sounds. The Weather News Network sends out Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) to cover the event. A well-meaning, fumbling, nerdy, wannabe reporter who backtracks every time she says something smart to seem normal. Lockwood’s latest experiment, a device which turns water into food, goes haywire during the unveiling of Sardine Land and shoots into the sky, turning rain into food. It’s great at first for both Flint and Swallow Falls, but as the food grows in size, along with Mayer Shelbourne, things stop looking positive.
Although the animation is colorful eye-candy, it lacks the detail and shadowing used in films like Up (2009) or Coraline (2009). The animation is like that of Monsters vs. Aliens (2009). As a matter of fact, Sam looks a lot like Susan from Monsters vs. Aliens. Regardless, we get several entertaining characters, sight gags and jokes that work for kids and adults alike.On the downside the characters lack depth and although it’s only 90 minutes, it drags at times.
As a longtime fan of Bruce Campbell, Mayor Shelbourne is easily my favorite character, especially in later scenes when his creepiness grows with his size. Flint’s assistant, a monkey named Steve (Neil Patrick Harris) with a Monkey Thought Translator, designed by Flint, adds flavor to many scenes and steals the show during a town snowball fight. Tim Lockwood, Flint’s father, is a subdued character whose thick eyebrows and mustache cover his eyes and mouth. He provides a few chuckles throughout, but gives us two of the biggest laughs in the film. As a special treat we even hear the voice of Mr. T, as Earl Devereaux, the local law enforcement whose sole purpose is to keep Flint from causing havoc in Swallow Falls with his inventions.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is no Pixar film but it’s fun and lighthearted. It’ll have you laughing most of the time and change the way you think about gummi bears.
Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Writer: Phil Lord (screenplay), Chris Miller (screenplay), Judi Barrett (book), Ron Barrett (book)
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Neil Patrick Harris
Runtime: 90 minutes