On DVD: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is about the closest any major CGI animation studio has come to a classic cartoon done in a modern style. It would appear that somewhere between “Looney Tunes” and Pixar’s “Up” that animation has lost a bit of its rule-bending nature. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, co-executive producers of CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother” and the short-lived cult favorite “Clone High” have restored that sense of abstract physical humor in Judi and Ron Barrett’s book while infusing it with a modern sense of humor.

You know what I’m talking about: the old cartoons where a TNT explosion or a gunshot would would merely blow all the fur or feathers off (temporarily) of a character. “Meatballs” isn’t that old school, but at one point, our narrator, the fearlessly crazy inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader of “SNL”) is hiding off the side of a dock after ruining his hometown’s big celebration with a presumably failed invention meant to turn water into food. His eventual love interest Sam (Anna Faris) walks to the pier, sits down and accidentally slams her heels into his mega-sized eyeballs. It’s the good old concept of animated films being aware of their fictional fantasy world and not being so transfixed on creating realism, which many animated features have in this computer age.

Sony Pictures Animation has only continued to get better, with their last film, “Surf’s Up,” being on the more fun and wacky side for animated features as well. “Meatballs” continues that idea with exaggerated characteristics like bug-eyes on all the characters and general silliness, but the writing is what ties it all together and really nicely.

When we’re first introduced to Flint, we get to see his many inventions that have gone wrong. But rather than make it just a fun one-minute bit, it’s a recurring joke throughout the film. The flying ratbirds that he invents pop up countless times throughout the film and his monkey sidekick named Steve with a thought translator strapped onto his chest gets laughs 80 percent of the time, partly thanks to “How I Met Your Mother” friend Neil Patrick Harris.

The story is an important one too, of a wild inventor chasing his dreams, trying to make a difference so that people will love him and dealing with the fame of being a town hero once his machine manages to suck atmospheric moisture and cause it to rain any food imaginable. But also, as we see early but the kiddies will learn later, he’s really out to earn the approval of his sardine-grinding father (James Caan) who we tell cares but can’t say it in any way other than elaborate fishing metaphors. Then there’s that being true to who you are stuff, represented by Sam’s shame at growing up a meteorology dork with glasses and a scrunchy.

Like every kids film, the shenanigans have a wear-down point, but “Meatballs” is layered with subtle jokes kids won’t catch (but that aren’t inappropriate either — a real surprise) that teenagers and adults will really appreciate. In terms of humor, the writing compares favorably with the “Up” script from earlier in 2009 though certainly as a story “Meatballs” is much more cartoon-traditional.

4/5 Stars

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Written and Directed by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring (voices): Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment