It’s been a big time for childhood nostalgia for me at the movies this summer with the beloved toys of my youth, Transformers and G.I. Joe, each making an appearance at the local movie theater. This stroll down memory lane continues with the 3-D animated adaption of the children’s book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi and Ron Barrett.
The film tells the tale of a hapless scientist and inventor named Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader). A series of catastrophic failures in his inventions have earned him the ire of the town, especially local police officer Earl Devereaux (Mr. T). Flint is now struggling to come up with an idea that will win him the love and respect of the town and more importantly, his father (James Caan). Flint thinks he’s done it when he creates a device that can transform water into any type of food. He hopes this will allow the town to replace their current sardine-based diet with a far tastier one.
However, after an accident while powering up the machine, it ends up suspended in a bank of rain clouds overhead, causing cheeseburgers to fall from the sky. When Flint realizes this is an opportunity to impress Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), the cute weather girl sent to cover the phenomenon, he decides to continue the rain of various culinary delights.
The local mayor (Bruce Campbell) also decides to take advantage of things by using the unique situation to restore the failing economy by rebranding the town as the world’s newest and most delicious tourist attraction. Everything is fine until the population’s rampant demands for specific culinary precipitation cause the machine to malfunction. It begins pummeling the town below with ever-larger items, quickly becoming a danger to everyone. Flint and Sam are forced to find a way to shut down the machine before the whole town is crushed under a flood of oversized corn on the cob and pizza slices.
With this premise, the film works quite well as children’s entertainment. However, those who like to chew thoughtfully on their cinematic fare will discover that there is far more to it than mere marshmallow fluff.
Some rather mature underlying themes are presented by the story. Numerous questions relevant to our own society are raised. Some of these points include the true side effects of cheap, abundant and unhealthy food, the importance of controlling portion sizes, and the blame everyone in society shares when we allow food to become overly important. There’s also a surprisingly strong and quite refreshing message of nerd pride throughout the film.
There’s an inspired moment in which Flint plays a humorous Internet video on his computer featuring a cartoon cat using a turntable to play rap group Public Enemy’s anti-authoritarian anthem “Fight the Power.” This sums the movie up beautifully, a thick topping of cuteness and laughs over serious social commentary. “Cloudy” truly is a movie that can be enjoyed on a variety of levels, by parents and children alike.