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"CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS"
(2009) (voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris) (PG)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Children's: A reckless inventor creates a machine that can cause it to rain food, but he is soon overwhelmed when the device spins out of control.
PLOT:
Flint Lockwood (voice of BILL HADER) has dreamt of being a scientist and an inventor ever since he was a little boy. Despite being made fun of in school and often causing electrical shortages in his neighborhood, the encouragement of his mother, Fran (voice of LAUREN GRAHAM), and his father, Tim (voice of JAMES CAAN) had convinced him to keep his dream alive over the years.

The Lockwoods live on the North Atlantic island of Swallow Falls, whose primary export is sardines. Over the years, though, the world's distaste of sardines grows and the island falls into a prolonged depression. During that time, Flint's mother passes away and a greedy, corrupt mayor (voice of BRUCE CAMPBELL) comes to power, eager to turn the island into an amusement park destination.

Mayor Shelbourne strikes gold for real, though, when Flint's wackiest invention - a satellite-like machine that causes it to rain down food - catches the world's imagination thanks to the TV news reports of Sam Sparks (voice of ANNA FARIS). Pretty soon, cruise ships and tourists are flocking to the island to experience burgers, steaks, hot dogs and other culinary delights land on their plates from the heavens. The local populace, which includes good cop Earl (voice of MR. T) and former sardine ad mascot Brent (voice of ANDY SAMBERG), have mixed feelings about this. But most embrace the changes and the fact that their island is once again on the map.

Of course, Shelbourne starts to demand more of the machine. Flint -- in his desire to be liked as a person, loved by Sam, and respected as a scientist - pushes the device to its limits, resulting in patterns of "food weather" that threaten Swallow Falls and the entire world. It's up to Flint, Sam, Flint's pet monkey Steve (voice of NEIL PATRICK HARRIS) and the rest of the town to band together and avert disaster.

OUR TAKE: 8 out of 10
The new animated pic "Cloudy With the Chance of Meatballs" is a kooky, crazy, inventive film about a kooky, crazy scientist who invents a machine that can make it rain food. Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is his name. He's the kind of guy who didn't have a tree house in his backyard, but a makeshift rocket ship. The steps to his downstairs don't lead to a family room with a big-screen TV and a plush La-Z-Boy, but a command center where he has spent years trying to perfect one failed invention after another.

Flint lives on the small Atlantic island of Swallow Falls, which years ago was a thriving place built around sardine fishing and packaging. But after it dawned on the world that nearly every other fish that swims in the sea tastes better than sardines, the town fell on hard times. That is until the greedy and corrupt Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell) decides that Flint's food invention is just what the town needs to become a gaudy tourist destination.

He prods Flint to program the airborne device to rain down three meals a day every day. Before long, the machine is way overstressed and starts to fight back. Suddenly, Swallow Falls is attacked by a tornado made of spaghetti and meatballs. Then, a dam breaks where all of Flint's excess food has been kept, creating an avalanche of fruit, vegetables, meats and dairy. Finally, the machine draws so much power in the upper atmosphere that the entire world is threatened, and it's up to Flint and intrepid weather reporter Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) to save the day.

Based on the popular children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is one of the most fun experiences audiences of all ages will have at the movies all year (especially if you see it in IMAX 3-D). The film is endlessly inventive. It's intense, but in a madcap, zany sort of way (Come on -- franks and beans and everything else tasty falling from the sky?!) And it maintains a sly running stream of social commentary without becoming overly preachy.

Sure, it's a little too obvious that the evil mayor is the only character who becomes obese as a result of overeating. And one kid going into a junk-food coma for a few seconds isn't exactly the kind of cautionary message that will be remembered afterward. At the same time, there are some nice messages about being true to one's self, regardless of popular opinion, and about saying "I love you" to your kid each and every day.

Additionally, Generation Xers who go see this flick with their kids will love hearing Mr. T as a local town cop who lives to rough up jaywalkers and other troublemakers who cross his path. James Caan also has a lot of fun as Tim Lockwood, Flint's technophobe father who can only relate to his son with a string of confusing fisherman's analogies.

Above all, the film is just fun. It's fun to see a school get pancaked by -- well, giant pancakes falling from the sky! It's fun to see everything from the Eiffel Tower to the Great Wall of China to Mount Rushmore get assaulted with giant, plummeting produce! And it's fun to see someone else other than Pixar rise to the occasion and deliver an exciting visual experience with heart. That's why this movie rates a very solid 8 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed September 12, 2009 / Posted September 18, 2009


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