Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online since 2004.
What's the Big Deal?
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is a CG animated sci-fi comedy film released in 2009, and it is based on the 1978 children's book of the same name by Judi & Ron Barrett. Written and directed by the debuting Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film depicts a hapless scientist whose food-generating machine goes out of control and threatens their home town. Together with a TV weather reporter, it is up to the machine's inventor to try and save the day. The film features the vocal talents of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Neil Patrick Harris, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell and Mr T. Released to a mostly positive response from critics, the film went on to earn more than $243 million worldwide as well as being followed by a sequel in 2013 and an animated TV series in 2017. However, the series has been on hiatus for a few years, and the future looks uncertain for this particular franchise.
What's It About?
On the lonely island of Swallow Falls, aspiring inventor Flint Lockwood lives with his monkey assistant Steve and widowed father Tim, who would rather Flint follow him into the fishing business. The island's economy, which is largely based on sardine fishing, falls into decline as global tastes change, resulting in most of the island having to eat excessive amounts of the unsavoury seafood. As a result, Flint invents a machine designed to change water into food - the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator or FLDSMDFR. After knocking out the power supply to his house testing the machine, Flint instead accidentally overloads the FLDSMDFR plugging it into the local substation. This sends the machine flying across the town out of control, destroying a sardine-themed amusement park meant to revitalise the town's fortunes, before disappearing up into the sky.
With the town's citizens and Mayor Shelbourne ostracising Flint for his scientific foolishness, he is amazed to find that cheeseburgers suddenly start raining on the town. Realising that the FLDSMDFR is still working somewhere in the upper atmosphere, Flint soon finds his fortunes changing as Swallow Falls becomes an unlikely media sensation. Befriending weather reporter Samantha Sparks who is covering the unusual weather event, Flint quickly discovers that the size of the food is growing and in the face of greed and profit, must find a way to deactivate the machine before things get out of control...
What's to Like?
Not surprisingly for an adaptation of a children's book, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is one strictly for younger audiences. So the film is chockful of bright colours, goofy humour and positive sentiment. However, that doesn't mean the film should be ignored by everyone else. Thanks to the wittiness and wackiness of the duo of Lord & Miller, the film has plenty of nods to the adults in the audience with some subtle gags and references in order to pop the parents. On the whole, the film is a chaotic and energetic farce that happily lampoons the genre it resides in. This is to sci-fi and disaster movies what Shrek is to fantasy films and fairy tales.
Unlike many other non-Pixar animations, this film manages to balance the weight of superstar actors with the suitability for the role. With the exception of Mr T (who, if we're honest, is only ever going to sound like Mr T in any role), the cast manage to deliver decent performances in the various roles. Hader and Farris convince as the hapless scientist and roving reporter and are ably supported by Caan and Campbell. If you're looking for a silly comedy about a town where it rains hamburgers (and if you are, congratulations on having the most niche tastes in history!) then this should be everything you're looking for. There's nothing controversial or unsuitable for younger viewers so parents can relax and join in with the fun. If this sounds like I'm being patronising, I can assure you that I'm not - quality family entertainment for everyone can be hard to find - but I am aware that I'm not exactly the target audience so the film doesn't quite work as well for me.
- Like many films, this film's title is changed for international markets. In Israel, the film is called It's Raining Falafel while in Turkey, it's known as It's Raining Kofta. Unfortunately, neither kofta nor falafel are seen raining in the film.
- This film marks the first animated movie for both Benjamin Bratt (who would later appear in Despicable Me 2 and Coco) and Will Forte who would return for this film's sequel as well as Lord & Miller's later animated film The Lego Movie.
- Lord & Miller originally wrote the script after the film was green-lit in 2003 but were fired and replaced by new writers - who were themselves later fired. Lord & Miller were then rehired in 2006 and completely rewrote the film from start to finish. After criticism from then-head of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal (the woman fired by Sony in the wake of the 2014 hack prompted by the release of The Interview), further re-writes were then conducted before the script was eventually finished.
What's Not to Like?
Sadly, the film is less gourmet and more like fast food - cheap but not exactly filling. The animation is fairly substandard and has dated quite badly compared to the richness seen in efforts like Moana or even Ratatouille, released a couple of years before this. Character design is especially bad - like Despicable Me, the characters have a different style or aesthetic to the environments they appear in so there's a weird disconnect for me. I also feel that the film had too many characters as many of them simply failed to resonate with me. Beyond Campbell's increasingly obese mayor and Mr T's entertaining super-cop Devereaux, I didn't feel like any of the supporting characters gave much in the way of... well, support. Narratively, the film is also pretty weak and stretches its premise out to justify its running time.
But the biggest issue is that the film just doesn't feel like a quality product. It lacks the smoothness and professionalism you get in a Pixar film and frankly, it just isn't as entertaining. Even a weak Pixar film like A Bug's Life or Cars 2 still has elements that adults can enjoy, from amusing dialogue to memorable supporting characters. There isn't anything about Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs that stands out as exceptional or memorable which is a shame. Presumably, this distinct averageness - coupled with an underwhelming sequel - meant that the franchise didn't have much life in it compared to so many others. It isn't even a faithful adaptation of the original book so fans of the Barrett's story will feel let down as well.
Should I Watch It?
It's not the worst animation you can watch with your young ones but Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is definitely one the kids will enjoy much more than you will. It's not terrible and has a good sense of fun running through it, as you'd expect from the talented team behind the film but their relative inexperience shows here. It feels unfocused and undercooked, lacking a sense of drive. But for what's it worth, the film has plenty of silliness and a good heart to entertain most kids.
Great For: children under the age of ten, anyone who has never read the book, illustrating how great Pixar films really are
Not So Great For: older viewers, anyone who's hungry, viewers used to much better CG animations
What Else Should I Watch?
Sony Pictures may have taken their time to lay their golden eggs but these days, they are among the most successful studios producing CG films. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse brought critical and commercial success to a studio that had been leaning heavily on weaker franchises like Hotel Transylvania and The Smurfs. Before then, Sony had laid stuff considerably more unpleasant - The Emoji Movie is a desperate piece of bandwagon-jumping that united the world in their contempt for it while Surf's Up was seen as little more than a shameless rip-off of the much better Happy Feet.
I make no apologies for being a Pixar shill because, quite frankly, they are still producing the best CG animations anywhere to be found. I have yet to watch any example of the genre to beat the fabulous WALL-E, a brave and beautiful sci-fi epic that isn't afraid to include powerful messages about environmentalism and consumerism. But their catalogue is littered with some truly amazing films - The Incredibles is a loving tribute to superhero films and comics of yore, Inside Out is an intelligent look at the inner workings of a teenage mind but is also a heartfelt and touching adventure in its own right, Soul is a wonderful jazz-inspired piece following a man's quest to rediscover his soul as his big break approaches and of course, a certain franchise featuring everybody's favourite cowboy / spaceman combo recently celebrated their fourth outing with potential spin-offs due for release in the near future.
Samantha "Sam" Sparks
Neil Patrick Harris
"Baby" Brent McHale
Officer Earl Devereaux
|Directors||Phil Lord & Christopher Miller|
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller*
Release Date (UK)
18th September, 2009
Animation, Comedy, Family, Sci-Fi
© 2022 Benjamin Cox