I’m not good at watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on an empty stomach. By the time the first hamburgers start falling from the sky, I’ve usually got a hankering to visit my local fast-food emporium. I’m no stranger to this suggestion; as a kid I found myself salivating whilst watching Ready Steady Cook, and after sitting through Super Size Me, I just wanted a Big Mac. Aside from making me a little peckish, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs mainly offers a fast-paced ride full of zany humour and endearing characters, all wrapped up in some slick animation.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is about Flint Lockwood, an aspiring inventor who never quite fit in. He lives with his Dad on a small island in the town of Swallow Falls, a town that is now surviving solely on sardines. Flint invents a machine that turns water into food to add some much needed flavour to the town, but things don’t go according to plan (didn’t see that coming, did ya?), and the machine creates the mother of all food-storms that threatens to engulf the world! Add in a scheming mayor, an eager young weather reporter, a monkey sidekick, and various townsfolk and you’ve got the recipe for a pleasing 90 minutes of cinema.
As is very much the case with other successful children’s films, the story is brimming with imagination and absurdity that seems completely at home. It’s a credit to the film-makers that they have embraced the concept of the book instead of diluting its playful nature in favour of more serious themes. That is not to say that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is without heart and meaning. The relationship between Flint and his father is a real stand-out and the film seems to revolve around it. With the loss of Flint’s mother, who was his most ardent supporter, Flint and his father have struggled to relate; the former a hyperactive inventor, the latter a reserved bait-and-tackle shop owner. As events spiral out of control, the two men are forced to churn up their feelings to help each other out and they do it in heart-warming fashion.
A word on Flint. Flint has got to be one of my favourite animated characters. He’s an incorrigible nerd hero; endlessly creative, clever, and clumsy. He even narrates his own montages, compete with Kronk-esque theme music. He also turned the name of his food machine into a superb comedy moment. What a guy.
There is nothing too surprising about the names populating the cast list, this is after all a large Hollywood animation production. We’ve got Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Bruce Campbell, and even Mr. T himself. That’s a lot of talent and it’s hard to pick out the top performer. Even Samberg, who plays the deliberately annoying “Baby” Brent, delivers the right performance – He’s annoying! And he does it pretty well! Although I cannot understand why he has to show up for the finale when even the characters on-screen don’t want him there. Seriously, the second half of the film doesn’t need him.
I’m a sucker for animation. I’ve grown up with it and I think I will continue to watch it well into middle-age and beyond. It’s a great medium that allows the film-maker’s imagination run wild and that is certainly on display in this film. The beautifully rendered food got my stomach rumbling and the crazy antics of Flint Lockwood left me with a smile on my face. Extra kudos go to the people who included some clever film nods. Wizard of Oz tornado anyone?
My thanks to Imogen for this film suggestion, if you have any suggestions of films for me to write about, I’d love to hear them. You can email (firstname.lastname@example.org), tweet, or facebook me and I’ll endeavour to reply as soon as I can.