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Video Reviews

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Kids, Animation
Cast
Voices of Bill Hader as Flint Lockwood; Anna Faris as Sam Sparks; James Caan as Tim Lockwood; Bruce Campbell as Mayor Shelbourne; Mr. T as Earl Devereaux
Director
Phil Lord and Chris Miller
Distributor
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters
September 18, 2009
On Video
January 5, 2010
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

From the time he could stand upright and piece together simple chemical compounds, Flint Lockwood was determined to become a famous inventor. The only problem was that all of his great ideas tended to end up in disaster. His spray-on shoes wouldn't come off. His hair unbalder prompted hair to grow everywhere. His ratbirds were ... well, ratbirds.

His mom was always encouraging, but since she passed away it's been just Flint and his dad, Tim. And they don't communicate very well. Tim tries to connect with his son, but he's just not able to fathom all that science nonsense. And Flint never could understand a fishing metaphor.

So the two are acting like a rheostat under an electromagnetic pulse, meaning they don't know whether to fish or cut bait, meaning they're just at a loss. Then Flint hits on an idea that'll surely make his dad drool! It's a device that reconfigures the molecular structure of water, turning it into ... food. Why, it's just the kind of thing that would prove to his dad, and the world, that Flint Lockwood is a great inventor.

All Flint needs is a few thousand gigajoules of power to jump-start the process. But when he connects his water-to-food machine to Swallow Falls' power generator the contraption launches itself into the sky—after destroying half the town in the process.

Another invention gone haywire. Flint feels like such a loser. And the whole town pretty much agrees with him.

That is, until it starts raining cheeseburgers.

Positive Elements

Flint grows up in a very loving family. As a kid, when one of his experiments backfires, Flint is terribly embarrassed and demoralized, but his mom prods him out of his funk by giving him encouragement and speaking of her love for him and her belief in him. Flint's dad has the same feelings deep inside, but can never seem to express them properly. So, later, it's a big deal when one of Flint's inventions ends up translating Dad's thoughts into eloquent words of love and support.

Another father in town, Earl the police officer, repeatedly expresses love for his child, as well. In fact, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is one of those rare movies that casts dads in a very positive light, showing fathers who face intimidating difficulties to protect and aid their children.

Flint meets an intern weather reporter named Sam, and finds her very appealing. He's especially drawn, however, to the insightful intellect that she works hard to keep hidden in favor of a "dumb blond" pretty exterior. Flint helps her see that her "nerdy" but bright side—thick-lensed glasses and all—is an important part of who she is.

Flint's dad points out that he doesn't think people should get everything they want. That food and treats raining down from the sky will cause greed and laziness and won't be good for people. As things progress, the film illustrates, and Flint learns, that his father's words are full of wisdom.

Using the town's mayor as a foil, we're shown that seeking fame and fortune shouldn't even be a hobby, much less an occupation. Flint discovers, too, that only by trying to invent things for the right reasons (not for recognition and glory) can he truly be happy and fulfilled.

Spiritual Content

The food falling from the sky is called "manna from heaven."

Sexual Content

Flint creates a Jell-O palace that features a topless (but obscured) Jell-O statue of the Venus de Milo.

Violent Content

Some broad cartoonish crash-and-boom is on display through large portions of the film. For instance, when Flint connects his water-to-food machine to the power generator, the contraption starts rocketing its way around the streets, dragging Flint behind. It plows its way through a newly unveiled theme park and sets a giant fish bowl rolling through the crowds, causing explosions and the park's complete destruction. People are sent flying in all directions and Flint smashes face-first into a stop sign. The fish bowl eventually shatters on top of Flint.

A food flood and spaghetti and meatball tornado are two more high-action disasters that take their toll on Swallow Falls, sending people screaming for the hills and jumping into the ocean. Inside a giant scoop of ice cream, kids are flung through the air. And there are a few painful looking bits, such as when Sam plops down on a pier and accidentally smashes the heels of her feet into Flint's eyes as he hides below on a ladder. One character is swallowed whole by a giant roasted chicken.

Sam swells up something fierce from a peanut allergy and Flint falls into a chasm lined with sharp peanut brittle spikes—but we never really fear for their safety.

The police officer tackles people. And he slaps Flint across the face.

Crude or Profane Language

The mayor laments being stuck in "this h---hole" of a town. Somebody says "jeez" and "holy crabballs." And there are a couple of exclamations of "gosh." Kids put the labels "nerd," "freak" and/or "four-eyes" on young Flint and Sam.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Diners have glasses of wine on their tables. When Sam has an allergic reaction, she's injected with epinephrine.

Other Negative Elements

When the kids in town join in on a ice cream snowball fight, Flint's monkey friend throws little dark brown balls that Sam quickly realizes aren't made of ice cream.

When Flint considers taking his father's advice and turning off the food machine, the mayor takes on the role of devil's advocate and seductively whispers in Flint's ear, saying, "Keep it on and be great or turn it off and ruin everything—and no one will like you." During a smashing meatball storm, a guy climbs through a broken window and steals a TV. (Then Flint's walking, remote controlled TV climbs into the window and steals a man.)

The town's one big business is a sardine plant that features a picture of the owner's son, Baby Brent, in a diaper on its company logo. That's not negative, but this might qualify: The adult Brent shows up at a town event and strips to nothing but a diaper to mimic the old photo. It's not the only time he runs around wearing just a diaper, either.

Earl is a muscular guy who wears tiny shorts as part of his police uniform. In a moment of peril, the camera shows a close up of his backside as he flexes his buttocks and leaps into action.

Conclusion

When I first saw the trailer for Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the thing that came to mind was cheese. And not the parmesan kind, either. To say that I was then pleasantly surprised when I actually watched the movie is an understatement. Sure, it has its share of cartoon violence, goofiness and lame humor—and lots of parents aren't going to want their kiddos running around yelling "h---hole" at the top of their lungs just because they hear the mayor say it.

But there's something else in the air around here too. And it's not just pancakes.

"We tried to do as progressive a version of a mainstream family movie as possible," co-director Phil Lord told the L.A. Times. "We tried to push the envelope in every area that people could stomach and deliver the craziest movie the studio would allow. We still wanted all the things that make a movie a hit—it had to make you feel something, have lovable, likable characters."

And that last part is where this cheery, animated smorgasbord—which is loosely based on a very popular children's book that is, as we speak, being read to scores of schoolchildren by scores of schoolteachers—lays out a satisfying spread. Amidst all the outlandish fried chicken cloudbursts and ice cream snow storms, there are some very winning thoughts about making wise choices. There are entertaining encouragements to resist the world's narcissistic expectations and the lure of fame. And there is a heartwarming affirmation that, in spite of miscues and failings, a loving family is more valuable than just about anything—even the prospect of never-ending room service from the skies.

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