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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Reel Rating: 3 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language
Released in Theaters: Sept. 18, 2009
Genre: Fantasy, Animated, Adventure
Runtime: 80 minutes
Directed by: Phil Lord
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Neil Patrick Harris, Lauren Graham, Al Roker, Benjamin Bratt

Sex/Nudity: Some flirting, and a kiss (or lack thereof) plays into the storyline.  

Violence/Gore: A “perfect food storm” threatens to wipe out Chew and Swallow, as well as other cities. Some peril involving a trip into the clouds to stop the storm, including the main character being lowered into a cavernous area by a string of licorice, as she tries to avoid peanut brittle (but fails, sending her into anaphylactic shock until she receives a shot). Flint creates “rat-birds,” which are creepy but don’t hurt anyone.  

Profanity: Mild insults, including “jerk,” “knuckle scrapers,” and “stupid,” as well as “hell hole.”

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 5 and older who like the children’s book on which this movie is based.

Will Parents Like It?  Yes, although it could have been rated G if not for some unnecessary language. Also, if you have a child with a peanut allergy, that scene might be a little frightening – for both you and your child.

Review: Based on the popular children’s book by Ron and Judy Barrett, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a cute movie, but rather forgettable in the big scheme of things. The graphics and animation are interesting, not to mention the idea of being able to order up whatever food you want and have giant amounts of it fall from the sky. So there’s that. But truth be told, it was more boring than I thought it would be.

Despite the impressive voice cast, there are really only a couple of voices you’ll probably recognize. Mark Mothersbaugh, the lead singer of Devo, is the composer, but I never would have known that unless I looked at the credits. The music seemed somewhat canned.

The story follows a kid named Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), who’s always been sort of a misfit. He’s a nerd who’d rather spend time in his makeshift lab inventing things than develop relationships with people. The kids at school make fun of him, and his bushy-browed dad (James Caan) would rather he worked in the bait shop than on all his goofy inventions. Flint’s mom is more encouraging, but she passes away when he’s a kid, so he’s left to his own devices, so to speak.

Meanwhile, the town of Chew and Swallow is surviving on a steady diet of sardines, so Flint spends his time working on a device that will create food out of water. It isn’t going well, and Flint suffers through many embarrassing defeats. But the town makes news when his invention actually begins working, and an ambitious young weather girl named Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) is there to document it. If you saw The House Bunny, you’ll recognize her voice. She has just the right voice for a cartoon character – fun and enthusiastic.

Turns out that Sam is a nerd just like Flint, only she doesn’t want anyone to know it, so she hides her true self in order to make it as a weather girl. But she’s fearless and ready to help her new friend when his invention goes horribly wrong. It’s an adventure that takes them into space!

Other voices include Andy Samberg as Baby Brent, a bullying kid who has a change of heart; Bruce Campbell as Mayor Shelbourne, a power-hungry politician; Mr. T. as Earl Devereaux, an over-enthusiastic cop; as well as Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Al Roker, and Lauren Graham.

The best part of this movie is the creative ways food can be, well, created. Cheeseburgers fall from the sky, kids have snowball fights with ice cream, and Gummi Bears frolic like so many cute creatures. One of the best scenes is when Flint creates a giant Jello mold for Sam, who loves Jello, and the two make a giant bounce-house out of it.

But things quickly get out of control, as the machine starts making bigger and bigger food, until one pancake covers the entire school (the kids don’t mind), not to mention other disasters. So action has to be taken, and a crew heads for space, where they encounter jagged peanut brittle (Sam’s allergic) and zombie-like chickens out to get them.

I would say to read the book instead, as it offers more bang for your food buck, but this movie is ok-fun, especially for kids in the 5- to 9-year-old age range. It’s offered in both 3D and conventional formats. I saw the conventional, although I would imagine this might be one of the rare movies that is actually better for being in 3D.

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email jboursaw@charter.net.