Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Human-size hot dogs pound from the sky, a castle of orange Jell-O appears, and a blizzard coats the town in scoops of ice cream. Like any good children's tale, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is an allegory. In this case, posing the question: is too much of a good thing a bad thing?, in tomato sauce-drenched disguise. Based on the classic book written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett, the film adaptation serves up the story in CGI animation of utmost delight. Stylistically more Ren & Stimpy than Disney (a cop voiced by Mr. T clenches his butt in one scene, in apparent homage), the film is exhaustingly up-tempo, and could benefit from more dramatic lulls. But kids and parents starved of animated features since Wall-E will be eating this one up.
If only there were more to chew on. The film draws from the loose narrative of the book to paint a portrait of a young inventor with big dreams. Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) tries to reinvigorate his sleepy, fictional town through his latest breakthrough: a device that can turn precipitation into food. The success earns the attention of a news station, which sends an intern/love interest (Anna Faris) to report on the ground. Pretty soon, the town's waistlines and food pyramids—junkyards of extraneous offerings from the sky—expand. But only when a glitch brings on ever more powerful tornadoes, damaging property, does Flint become an enemy of the people. It's a true omen when the first rain brings on hamburgers. Clearly, the film's writers have a notion of what's healthy and not. But Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is no Food Inc., animated. That junky favorites are practically all that fall from the sky does more to reassert that these are the only foods that exist, rather than vie for any "food movement" cause (though vegans who've rallied behind the film may wish so). What it does maintain, simple allegory notwithstanding, are two relationship sub-themes of the tritest types: a son and his taciturn father finally bond, and a girl too worried about being unattractive to reveal her geeky side, well, pulls her hair up. An unprecedented storm of meatballs is just the catalyst for this typical outcome.
Opens September 18