Considering that the flood of animated movies now saturating the market is showing no signs of slowing down, and that not every one of them can be expected to be as superb as Pixar’s Up, there really is no shame in sneaking away to the multiplex and taking in this new feast being presented by Sony Pictures Animation. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a lightweight film sure to delight both children and adult gluttons alike. The action takes place in a town called Swallow Falls where hard times have hit and all anybody can afford to eat are sardines, the local export.

Swallow Falls is one of those embarrassing slices of Americana where idiocy rules and where our hero, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), something of a genius, finds himself an outcast. The writer/director team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (both did both) put out a good movie, an adaptation of the celebrated children’s book, but never strive for much beyond that. They seem perfectly content to just use Flint’s story to usher in the life lesson that the kids in the audience have already learned off the page and from other movies, such as "be yourself" or "don’t let your dad choose your career path."

Flint, being a typical cartoon character, has dreams that can’t be attained and a girl that he can’t quite nail down. His dream has always been to be a famous inventor but we learn in an amusing montage that his career thus far has been a collection of failures (failures, such as the "RatBird", that keep popping up throughout in well placed sight gags). But with his latest invention he hopes to finally redeem himself, and this new machine of his changes water from the atmosphere into food. Whatever food he types into his little computer, and then it rains from the sky.

This ends the town’s reliance on sardines and turns Flint into a local hero winning him the attention of one Sam Sparks. She’s the sparkling new face of a local weather channel, sounds just like Anna Farris, and has a waistline only a bulimic could love. The rest of the town is a mix of stereotypes and dim bulbs. There’s Brent (Andy Samburg), a low rent Biff Tannen, whose spent his life living off the celebrity afforded him because his baby picture is used on the packaging of some of the town’s sardine products. Also there’s Officer Earl (Mr. T, believe it or not) a hard ass cop whose sole motivation in life seems to be to throw Flint in the clink.

The great thing about this imagined universe is that the characters (and the storytellers) can indulge to their hearts content and not suffer any consequences. That is unless you happen to be the town’s greedy mayor in which case your bingeing turns you into one of those living piles of lard last seen in Wall-E. Meanwhile everyone else, including skinny ass Sam, manage to stick to his or her ideal weight. This may not be the healthiest message to send to all those junk food addicted kids out there (guilty) but ultimately who cares?

What the paying customer does care about is whether this film can provide a mindless jolt of fun for an hour and a half or so and that is something Lord and Miller provide very well. They refuse to be kowtowed by the current trends, and while they don’t wink at the adults in the audience they still pump out a script that is stuffed with satisfying lines. The animation is bright, flashy, and in it’s own 3D way, strangely poetic. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs isn’t a blue chip production like Up but has tons of style and charm all of it’s own.

Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samburg, James Caan, Mr. T

Director: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Runtime: 81 minutes

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG

 

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