(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Yet another digital 3-D animated film comes out this year. Giant food is falling from the sky in this un-engaging children's adventure. After UP set a standard for character development, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS falls short. There is not much logic and not very interesting characters in this story suggested by (but not taken from) the children's book of the same name. Phil Lord and Christ Miller share writing and directing credits. If you are a little nauseated by the thought of a place like Candyland, don't go to Swallow Falls where food falls on you from the sky. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) lives on Swallow Falls, an Atlantic island whose major industry is sardines. But sardines are not popular any more, and the island is in economic crisis. Flint does not want to go into the dying sardine business. Instead he wants desperately to be an inventor. Sadly, none of his inventions ever seem to work as intended. Flint has become the island's joke. With an echo of OCTOBER SKY, Flint's father has little interest in his son's inventions and just wants his son to go into the sardine business. Flint thinks sardines are icky. His new invention turns water into any food requested. Tell it what food you want and it is there, not unlike a "Deep Space Nine" food replicator.

For some strange reason the food replicator can fly like a rocket and ends up sitting motionless over the island replicating requested food and dropping it on the island in giant food storms. (No, I mean the storms are giant, not the food. Okay, as the trailer shows that comes later.) Now Flint has a successful and even well-loved invention and the town is grateful. But this is only the start of the situation. Free food in of any type and quantity is not so good as it seems at first. Some people are growing very fat. The film has themes of healthy eating; a theme of people who are afraid to show their intelligence; a related theme that is it okay to be a nerd; father-son relationship themes; and more--all on a very superficial level. Just when you start to dwell on one of the film's messages, an action scene comes along to distract the viewer. The pace of the films is fast, but the story seems to make less and less sense as it goes along. It could have some intelligence if it concentrated on fewer distractions. Maybe it could have expanded on one theme like the father-son relationship. But the film seems intent on hiding the intelligence it might hold.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS is full of imaginative food adventures and visually it is quite creative with visual puns with edibles. And in digital 3-D these are even nicer to watch. But once the audience is used to giant foodscapes they do not add a whole lot.

Somehow the logic of the film just does not work for me. Nobody on the island seems to notice that Flint has created some potentially world-shattering inventions, least of all Flint himself. One would make it possible to understand the language of higher animals, in this case a monkey. (Didn't we see the same device in UP?) One creates instant, flexible, permanent, spray-on insulation. One keeps a craft aloft in the stratosphere indefinitely above a certain point in the North Atlantic. And one--of particular interest here--could feed all the hungry of the world using nothing but water. Any one of these inventions would have fabulous applications. There are only three problems holding this genius back. One is that like Wile E. Coyote, Flint gives up on each of his inventions after the first setback. He has no imagination as to where his inventions will find their greatest application. Phil Lord and Chris Miller do not appear to have given any thought at all to the implications of the situation they have set up. The character and those situations apparently do not appear in the book of the same title by Judi and Ron Barrett and were created exclusively by Lord and Miller.

The film first tempts us with the food and then rubs our noses in it. A year ago this might have been considered a better 3-D film. But films like UP have raised the bar and this one does not measure up. I rate CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper