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Movie Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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I have never read the book, and at this point in time I have no plans to. Does that make me a bad person? Perhaps. I know that I should read more than I do. I used to read all the time, but that was way back in the days of youth, before the Internet and little computers you can carry around, not to mention before my addiction to movies, music, and television really kicked in. Sure, my brain may be turning into a meatball, but hey, its what I do!

In any case, I initially did not have a lot of interest in this movie. It is not that I thought it looked bad, or expected it to be bad, I was just looking to cut corners and this looked like a candidate for a movie that could be skipped. Then something changed. After its first weekend, the reviews came back generally positive, plus the word of mouth was quite positive, with many adults suggesting they liked it more than their kids. With all of this, how could I deny it its time? Besides, I had also learned that the local theater would be losing their 3D print next week with the arrival of the Toy Story 3D double feature. So, off I went, to see if the positive buzz was indeed the truth.

I am happy to report that while this is no Pixar film, it exceeded my expectations and proved to be rewarding time at the theater. The animation proved to be a bit above average, although it was plagued with some uninspired character and background design, but generally speaking, it is nicely rendered and a step above your average Ice Age movie. What really steps this up above your typical animated fare is the writing. That's right, the writing, and maybe a little bit of the 3D effect (although that is not entirely necessary).

The story is set on a small fishing island out in the Atlantic. They a happy community that takes a sad turn when the rest of the world realizes that their stock in trade, sardines, are gross. Their economy comes to a grinding halt and this once happy community loses its smile. What will happen to them now? Enter Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader).

Flint is a hapless inventor who always has his eyes set on the next big thing, despite the fact that none of his inventions have actually worked as designed. For example he made spray on shoes that do not quite work and a remote control TV that runs off on its own. However, with the fishing catastrophe that has befallen the town, Flint has one more idea.

Our hero's latest invention converts water into food. You poor the water in, tell it what kind of food you want, and it comes out the bottom. The problems begin when the machine goes haywire and shoots up into the sky, where it amazingly begins to work. The skies begin raining hamburgers and before you know it, Flint is a star. The mayor sees this as a way to invigorate the economy and bring in tourists.

From here, things begin to grow out of control. The food begins to get bigger and bigger and the gluttonous side of man begins to get out of control and run amok. Flint, forever the butt of jokes, is getting his first taste of fame and it goes right to his head. The mayor (voiced by Bruce Campbell) lets his literally gluttonous side get the better of him, as he consumes nearly everything that falls from the skies. Everything builds to a feverish pitch until our hero needs to choose which side he is on.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs offers up plenty of opportunities for great visuals, but it is the characters that make the whole work. Flint Lockwood is an intriguing character who has grown up a little strange, a dreamer who has never given up the dream. He has poor social skills and a rocky relationship with his father (James Caan). Their relationship grows and changes over the course of the film and adds a lot of heart and warmth to the proceedings. Then there is the arrival of intern turned temporary weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Farris), she is not terribly good at the job, but catches Flint's fancy despite his inability to actually talk to her.

Definitely an enjoyable film. The relationships that develop give the film depth that I was not expecting. I actually felt for these characters, for example, the father carries a lot of sadness throughout. I found him to be rather heartbreaking. Then there is the relationship between Flint and Sam which has plenty of fits and starts, but also carries a lot of genuine emotion.

Oh yes, you also have to love Steve the monkey (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). "Gummi Bears!"

Bottomline. I should not have been so quick to write this one off. It is laugh out loud funny at times, genuinely emotional at other times, and always entertaining. The pace is fast and you will not be bored. Definitely gather the family together and check this one out.

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