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One Serving of Gluttony, Two of Imagination

Movie Title: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Spoilers: No

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The thought of food, especially junk food, falling out of the sky and right into my lap…is there a word to describe my exhilaration at the thought? I run no risk in sharing too much about myself when I admit that I light up inside thinking of a day when tacos with extra lettuce and cheese fall from the heavens in unlimited quantities. It would truly be a “blessing” (and I say that as an unabashed atheist).

Some reviewers find this gluttonous food-for-all nauseating. I can’t say I relate to that feeling when applied to this film, except on one level, which we’ll discuss in a sec. But can you imagine inventing a machine that creates food from clouds and moisture in the air? I can, and the thought isn’t too enticing when approached from a scientific point of view.

Think about how clouds form because dirt particles cluster together in the air until the weight of the bundling water molecules becomes too much. Gravity gets the better. We call that rain. It’s cold in the upper atmosphere. Would not the food be cold and soggy and taste like dirt?

No sir. No ma'am. The food tastes as good as you can imagine it tasting. I know so because that is the beauty of creativity and is what sets Cloudy With a Chance for Meatballs apart as an outrageously entertaining film. No skeptics here. They aren’t allowed in this club. The sign on the treehouse says so. Obey it even though its written in crayon. Here you can be a kid again. Here you can think like a child at play with his toy shark that squeaks in the bathtub.

The obstacles that constantly plague my adult mind don’t follow me inside the club. I don’t have to care about the fact that food dropping down everywhere in a city would rot and ferment and stink like trash in a day’s time, and about how it would cost more to clean up and dispose of than 12 feet of snow in northern Minnesota during the worst winter. Were it not an island this is happening on, falling food would bring in rodents, pests, and animals from every possible quarter.

Forget the stench. This would knock the entire ecosystem way out of whack. The economic collapse of restaurants (a slight issue in the film) would be incredible. But I am happy to report that none of what I just mentioned means a thing. It can’t mean a thing because the thought of 2-liter bottles of Pepsi falling 35,000 feet and landing on people would make this one hilarious gorefest!

But aren’t the characters rather one-dimensional? Some are, but it’s ok. The main characters are just like you and I, which is to say, they have hang-ups. Audiences relate best to people with hang-ups. These people are obviously not intended to look that real. The movie is about dodging lifelikeness, though not completely. It is written in such a way that it forgets neither the kids, nor the adults. There is plenty for both (sometimes a little too much for the kids).

Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is a brilliant kid, brilliant enough to be a social caterpillar who hasn’t yet become what he can. He invents this bizarre cloud-to-food machine that gets the town in a craze. There is some emotional distance between he and his father, Tim (James Caan). Tim is like a lot of burly dads I’ve known, “less talk more action” type of guys. The world goes around because of them.

Earl Devereaux (Mr. T) is the town cop who always stays in uniform and has too much energy to do a low-key shift of eating donuts and giving out traffic tickets. My only disappointment with him was that not a once did I hear the word “sucka” in 90 minutes of watching. Sorry. It’s just that I miss my B.A. Baracus. Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Cambell) is an opportunistic mayor who puts on weight like a boa constrictor consuming a fully-grown hog. He’s a bad guy you want to be bad. You don’t want him to be reasonable or wise or to have a listening ear.

The film, adapted from a 1978 children’s book with the same title, is a superlative work for a new age. The frequent use of technology, an insistence on nerd-like education, and the drive for entrepreneurship are bonus parts of this package. And the criticism…of a food-obsessed society, where men go so far as to bathe in public in cheese whiz (now that should turn your stomach!), and vain Hollywood stars who coast on their celebrity status…none of them get off the hook.

I don’t know if Indiana Jones saw this much action or adventure. Much of it is scary—and disgusting when dark-colored “plops” of meatballs the size of cars “splat” onto the ground. Sometimes I couldn’t tell what I was looking at, and sometimes I could and wished I couldn’t (if you know what I mean).

But who can complain about something that brings out the fun of a planned cafeteria food fight, like the kind you wished you'd started in sixth grade but never had the guts? You’d hate being sticky afterwards and having to take an extra-long shower, but just the imagining is enough.

(JH)

Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars) Recommended!
Rated: PG
Summary: A socially challenged young scientist invents a machine that makes food rain from the skies, which causes the town to lose its way.
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller Starring: Bill Hader “Flint Lockwood (voice),” Anna Faris “Sam Sparks (voice),” James Caan “Tim Lockwood (voice),” Andy Samberg “Baby Brent (voice),” Bruce Campbell “Mayor Shelbourne (voice),” Mr. T “Earl Devereaux (voice),” Bobb'e J. Thompson “Cal Deveraux (voice),” Benjamin Bratt “Manny (voice)”
Genre: Comedy / Family
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