Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is just pure craziness. Bright, fast-paced and absurd, it’s packed full of “blink and you’ll miss it” gags. The story follows Flint Lockwood, a spirited young inventor and resident of Swallow Falls, as he attempts to impress the town’s people with his new invention: the FLDSMDFR (yes I did type that correctly). It’s a machine that can turn water in to food, and after Flint loses control over it and sends it hurtling up in to the clouds, it begins sending down cheese burgers from the sky like rain. The mayor of Swallow Falls realises the potential of this phenomenon and decides to make it the town’s new ‘attraction’. Flint struggles to meet the greedy demands of the residents who ask him to make new foods fall with each passing day, and eventually the machine overheats and malfunctions. What ensues is complete and utter madness, with mutated hot dogs and monster meatballs threatening the destruction of the entire world.
Confused? That’s not even the half of it. Other characters include a kooky weather intern called Sam, Flint’s hairy father (who is literally a walking monobrow and moustache), his pet monkey Steve (who can talk via a ‘monkey-thought-translator’), Earl the over-enthusiastic police officer, Brent the man-baby, and Manny the Guatemalan camera man. With more energy than a child overdosing on candy, the film is non-stop action and laughs from start to finish. What separates this from your average children’s animation, though, is its surprisingly fresh sense of humour. At one point, Flint’s father stands in front of a clothes store, where in the windows are black and white adverts showing topless men wearing bibs in the style of Calvin Klein underwear. It’s little details such as this that save the film from being a bore. The script is intelligent, sharp witted, and quick to make fun of itself. Never too serious, but then again never too dangerous, the film can at times seem a little desperate to impress, but is entertaining nonetheless.
At points verging on the bizarre (there is a scene in which “Baby” Brent gets swallowed whole by a walking, man-size roast chicken, only to end up controlling it from the inside…), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is as loony as its title suggests. And that is my only criticism, that it sacrifices depth in an attempt to appear postmodern and wacky. Whenever the main characters were in danger, I just couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to them, as the threat never seemed real or serious enough. A truly exceptional children’s animation can successfully involve happiness and sadness, and although this film was hilarious, it didn’t have the emotional range of some of the more impressive films from this genre.
FINAL VERDICT: ★★★1/2