Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Lessons

It gives me great pleasure to post a film review by my son John:

Films based on children’s books can be a tricky proposition. Often kids’ books don’t contain enough plot to sustain a feature-length film. What works well on the page can translate poorly to the big screen. All the digital effects in Hollywood cannot make up for a thin plot that may otherwise work in short, illustrated book-form. Did we really need a big-budget version of The Cat in the Hat? For a children’s film to stand on its own merits, there has to be a journey that the audience is willing to take.

Thankfully, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, based on the popular children’s book of the same name by Ron and Judi Barrett, organically strengthens its skeletal tall-tale roots by providing a satisfying backstory that explains the reason for food falling from the sky in the mythical town called Chewandswallow. Instead of simply relying on the novel idea at the heart of the book, screenwriters Phil Lord and Chris Miller center the story around memorable characters who ultimately triumph in this lighthearted but delicious film.

Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is a young inventor who dreams of creating something that will improve everyone’s life. He has been seeking that invention since grade school, but his results have always pointed more to ridicule and failure, which don’t improve Flint’s relations with his widowed father (James Caan). Flint lives on an island in the Atlantic that survives by catching and canning sardines. When the sardine market collapses and the citizens grow tired of eating their own sardines, he decides to save his island by creating a machine that can convert ordinary water into any food on Earth: hamburgers, ice cream, jellybeans, you name it. His invention ruins a town gathering and ultimately ends up in the sky. But once the town’s denizens realize that Flint is responsible for some amazing new weather, he winds up as the most popular person in town.

Flint is tempted by the town’s fame-seeking mayor (voiced by Bruce Campbell) to indulge in his newfound glory and not waste time thinking about problems like the mountain of garbage that his new machine creates or the rapidly expanding size of the food that rains down on the town. Flint’s love interest, a fledgling weather reporter named Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris), wants to help, but is afraid to show her intelligence to anyone for fear of jeopardizing her career or friendships with others. Ultimately, Flint winds up having to decide whether to destroy the very thing that gave him his popularity.

There are many treats here for both child and adult, and the filmmakers have expertly weaved in 3D effects that add to the charm of the film. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a delightful way to spend an afternoon with the family. Just be sure to make time for the inevitable hunger pangs that you’ll feel afterward.

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