Tuesday, May 25, 2010
As the mother of two kids I read a lot of children's books and watch a lot of kid-friendly movies, so it's pretty much a given that we'll end up watching when one of their favorite books makes it to the big screen. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a 2009 release based on a children's book by Judi Barrett that did very well, though it's one of those movies that, more often than not, you catch after its theatrical release. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is the story of Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader). Flint's the kind of awkward kid who's always trying too hard but never quite manages to fit in with his peers. Flint's dream is to be an inventor, but the only person who supports and understands this dream is his mother-- who dies while he still quite young. His father Tim (James Caan) runs a bait and tackle shop and tries to be supportive, but ultimately can't connect to his flighty son. Swallow Falls, the small island they call home, is suffering from hard economic times as the sardines that are their main export are not in high demand-- and the people are getting tired of the steady diet of sardines they are stuck with. Hoping to do something for inhabitants of the island, Flint devises a machine that is powered by water and can drop a steady stream of food from the sky. After a bumpy start (one that nearly destroys the town) the machine actually starts working and dramatically announces its success with a shower of cheeseburgers. Flint, who had always hoped to one day be popular is suddenly the hero of the town, though he is far more interested in an young intern named Sam (Anna Farris) who had come to the town to report on the weather and got more than she bargained for. Before long everyone in town is coming to Flint with requests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet it's the town's mayor (Bruce Campbell) who has a big plan to make the island-- since renamed to Chewandswollow-- into a tourist attraction who really puts the pressure on Flint to deliver bigger, more extravagant meals. But the machine is being dangerously overworked, and it looks like a big storm is building that may not only endanger Chewandswollow, but the whole world. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is one of those movies that is hard to review as an adult because it's clearly made for it's target audience. There are a few nods to the adults who'll be accompanying the kids, mostly with the inclusion of voices like that of Mr. T and Bruce Campbell who are immediately recognizable, but the movie is so busy that it's unlikely that anyone who doesn't have serious attention deficit issues isn't going to be boggled by the constant action-- and I didn't even try to watch the 3D version. It's a sweet movie and, like a lot of films directed at kids, tries hard to sandwich (no pun intended) in the usual messages of individuality is good and learn to like yourself just the way you are. It's also a natural fit to warn kids of the dangers of over consumption and the movie does a good job on not being preachy on any level-- definite points in its favor. "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is a kid's movie for sure. My kids were dazzled by the bright colors and loved the idea of food falling from the sky. Other elements, like Flint's many unsuccessful inventions (most notably the ratbirds) were also a big hit. The messages meant to inspire and/or teach were pretty much over their heads, but you gotta give them credit for trying. Adults will likely only give this one a single viewing. There's just so much going on that it ends up leaving very little to actually hold on to. In fact, I found myself zoning out and letting the action wash over me. All in all, decent family fare, but nothing that's likely to blow you away.