Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is based upon a children’s book which I have never read. So this story is totally new to me and of all the animation companies competing with Pixar I must admit this quirky story about a guy inventing a machine that makes is rain food is the closest anyone has come into reaching the levels of originality of the Pixar films. But if you take away the food part of the story the rest is a dime a dozen: our anti-hero saves the day, gets the girl and the bond between him and his dad becomes finally good again, what basically happens in every other movie. But that doesn’t mean Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a bad movie, it really tries to do stuff with the material.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs takes place at an island town called Shallow Falls outside of the east-coast of America. This town, with its constant gray sky, lives of sardine-fishing but when sardines were officially declared to be gross the town’s income vaporized and started leading a marginal life. The mayor, voiced by Bruce Campbell, tries to turn the island into a tourist attraction by opening Sardine Land but at the same town failed inventor and protagonist of the story Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) tries to power up his latest invention, a food generator, by connecting it to the local power plant. As always things do not go as planned and the machine gets launched by all the electricity completely destroying Sardine land before it goes up into the sky where it actually starts functioning properly and generates food that comes from the sky.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is beautifully animated and very colorful, especially when the machine starts to work and the clouds turn pink/purple. The whole town comes to life and the gray palette is thrown out of the window. There are some good gags and the voice acting is very good, but when you’ve got people like Bruce Campbell as an a-hole mayor and Mr T. as the town cop it’s really hard to mess up and it doesn’t. I didn’t recognize James Caan though, who voices the father of Flint and constantly talks in fishing metaphors to explain his emotions and thoughts.
The downside to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is that it is kinda low on story, and what story there is we’ve seen before, except for the food from the sky thing. But that is the obstacle tio overcome in this movie, comparable to sinking ships, volcano eruptions or twisters.
In the end it’s just another coming of age story in which the boy comes to terms with himself and becomes the town hero. But before that he has to switch of the machine which leads to a very imaginative third act which reminded me of the third acts of Star Trek I and Star Trek V in which Kirk and co. are on a distant planet where he has to go to stop some alien force. Flint is walking in a small planet of food that has grown outside of his machine and has to get to the core in order to shut his machine off. This act is filled with killer food and very creative. There are pizza-projectiles as well as killer headless chickens. Hilarious is the moment where Flint’s father has to use a computer for the first time. Very recognizable for everybody who has had to teach some senior family member how to use a computer for the first time.
Somewhere there’s very good story within this good looking material, but my guess is it’s hidden somewhere under a pancake or hotdog.