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'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' a tasty family comedy

Article Published: Oct. 19, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' a tasty family comedy

Bill Hader plays catch-up with ketchup as Flint Lockwood in 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.'

Let's face it, what kid hasn't dreamt of a giant pancake crushing his school?
All right, maybe not so many, but kids aplenty and their parents should find a tasty treat in the computer-animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Based on the beloved children's book of the same name by Ron and Judi Barrett, Cloudy offers a winning combination of superb voice acting, clever dialogue, slapstick comedy and top-notch animation, only to suffer a mild case of morals toward the end.

It's a tale of acceptance and a warning against overindulgence, and even though it at times dips into cliched territory, plenty of laughs - the best of them unexpected - are to be found.

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Cloudy tells the otherwise hard-to-swallow tale of Swallow Falls, an island located under the "A" in "Atlantic," whose economy is solely sardine-based.

Stagnant in profit and taste, sardines just aren't making it happen, when aspiring scientist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader, Superbad) starts cooking up an idea.

Since his day as a wide-eyed grade-schooler, Flint has tried his best to invent, though his creations usually spur ghastly results, like permanent spray-on shoes, flocks of hybrid rat-birds and rampaging television sets.

He's convinced his latest invention will gain the respect of his fellow townsfolk, as well as his unibrowed fisherman father (James Caan, The Godfather). If all works as planned, he'll be able to transform water to any food he desires.

As a revenue-hungry mayor (Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness) unveils a sardine-based theme park, Flint unwittingly unleashes his new machine into the heavens above, prompting a steady rain of cheeseburgers.

This catches the eye of aspiring weathergirl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris, The House Bunny), who documents Swallow Falls' weather phenomena, from breakfast to Jell-O to an ice cream snowstorm.

Flint becomes a town hero, and the mayor becomes hungrier, seeking larger meals for larger tourist revenue. When high demand begins to kick the machine into overload, something goes wrong. Mutated food of monstrous portions begins to fall, crushing buildings, destroying infrastructure, and causing Flint to make an important, though difficult, decision.

The animation in Cloudy is spectacular. The characters are cartoonish, but the attention to detail of their surroundings is masterful, especially as the weather phenomena grow in magnitude. If one were ever to witness a food avalanche overtaking a dam, that's probably how it would look.
And the gags are plentiful, with laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled throughout, especially with the sporadic reappearance of Flint's bizarre inventions and sharp writing that can, at times, be downright clever.

Its characters also add dimension, with its ensemble cast's celebrity not overshadowing the story. Hader is earnestly likeable as Flint, as is Faris with Sam, but most enjoyable is Caan as Flint's father, a gruff widower who can only express feelings for his son through clumsily delivered fishing metaphors.

And Mr. T (TV's The A-Team) returns to the screen, kind of, as an overzealous town cop, and Neil Patrick Harris (TV's How I Met Your Mother) plays a talking monkey - 'nuff said.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, rated PG for brief mild language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone.

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