‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)’: Throwback Review

What’s the Story: Ever since he was a little boy, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) has always dreamt of being a famous inventor. Though as hard as he tries, his experiments never made a lasting impression on anyone. But there’s hope with his latest that could desperately help his small island town of Swallow Falls in creating a weather device that can convert water into delicious food instead of resorting to sardines. Just when he’s out of luck, foods of all kinds rain from the sky and become the town’s coolest person. Though when things become more difficult, Flint must not take this out of control.

With Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, I think I remembered reading the 1978 children’s book of the same name by author Judi Barrett and illustrator Ron Barrett when I was a kid, and pretty sure most kids in Elementary School did as well. The movie was going to a loose adaptation of the story that would be more than a 10-minute or short read-through. There was some potential for this to be a family-friendly good time as Sony Pictures Animation’s third feature, and it’s a movie I enjoyed as a teenager when I saw it in theaters and still love as an adult.

We’re all familiar with Phil Lord & Christopher Miller with their comedy work now, but they made their directorial debut here along with penning the script. What most didn’t know is they were fired because of the story, but were re-hired later on. Even I never heard of them before when the only animated thing they’ve done was the underappreciated Clone High. But this was an early glimpse of how funny these two are when they delivered a fast-paced adventure that will so make you hungry while watching. You gotta hand it to them and the animation team for providing some colorful animation across the board when showing off the food from different portions and cleverly using them in the environment to make a set-piece more amusing. Was the story different from the source material? Of course, because I really doubt little kids who are die-hard purists will complain about how it’s not like the original book. And even if this was just made for children, there’s still this sense of wonder older viewers can get a kick out of. It was clear Lord & Miller wanted to make this a nice feast of a food coma mixed with a crazy take on a typical disaster movie. Or how I saw it, it’s like a crossing Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and Chicken Little, but a more lighthearted affair of the latter.

Who hasn’t daydreamed about food falling from the sky once in a while? We all do. The citizens of Swallow Falls couldn’t believe cheeseburgers came down, and everyone suddenly became interested in Flint’s experiment. Next thing you know, there’s stuff like pizza, pies, sandwiches, and so much more you can imagine. Growing up now, was this meant to be this underlying message of how we shouldn’t rely on junk food or global warming? I guess. But it shows how someone’s passion can become a reality when you never give up, even if it leads to questionable consequences amid greed and technology.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS

A decade after its release, nobody was expecting Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to be the most groundbreaking animated movie ever made when you can see from the ridiculous story and it’s never to be taken seriously and not meant to be anything close to the level of Pixar or DreamWorks. Do you want a movie that will have you craving? Or a good, but a little underdeveloped father-son relationship about believing one’s life? It’s all here.

The voice cast is delightful with a lot of well-known actors to fit their characters well enough, including Bill Hader, Anna Faris (Sam Sparks), James Caan (Tim Lockwood), Andy Samberg (“Baby” Brent), Bruce Campbell (Mayor Shelbourne), Neil Patrick Harris (Steve), Mr. T. (Officer Earl), and Benjamin Bratt (Manny).Even when I was 13, I was excited to learn Hader was going to be the lead as Fling because he was still on SNL at the time and he does a great job giving the character that energetic feel to him. The rest of the characters were what you come to expect. I also liked the chemistry of Flint and Sam, especially when they have more in common.

But it’s funny, too. The humor is clearly for kids, but it kept me laughing a bunch just for the random moments from the background or a line of dialogue from a character. An accurate moment that will always make me laugh was when the town turns into an ice cream dreamland and they designed the streets in a Neapolitan way, in which there’s only one kid whose favorite flavor is strawberry. For the record, I like strawberries, but it’s disgusting in milk or frozen dessert form. But even the way they incorporate different foods into the punchline gets some easy gags that made me grin.

Visually, I saw this in 3D, and I thought they impressively used the technology the best they could, which was a sign of re-leaf of a children’s movie made for 3D that’s good for them to sit through. Mark Mothersbaugh’s score was more notable now than the times I re-watched it was back when in the techno-adventurous sound it added to its scenes, and I have a soft spot for Miranda Cosgrove’s “Raining Sunshine” because it’s kind of catchy.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) - Rotten Tomatoes

For making something out of a short picture book, I still love it all these years later. And if you recall September of that year, it was the only movie that month that got positive reviews and it claimed the number one spot at the box office for two weeks. It’s a letdown this has gotten lost in the shuffle when it was one of the best animated movies of 2009 and should’ve been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. Though Up was going to win, anyway. Do I wish the 2013 sequel was better and not be totally forgettable? I do because does anybody remember it coming out? However, we have this underrated gem.

Final Thoughts: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs‘ fast-paced humor and beautiful animation made this adaptation a fun and surprisingly delicious time that only Lord/Miller can make work and for everyone of all ages. If it doesn’t make you hungry after it’s over, something’s wrong.

Grade: A-

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