Inspired by Ron and Judi Barrett’s 1978 well-loved children’s book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is actually familiar fare disguised under eccentric toppings. It’s the classic tale of the geek seeking recognition, but realising how the real magic lies in being comfortable in one’s own skin and learning to recognise the love in those around you.
Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is the classic nerdy inventor, who has always been reviled for locking himself in his lab to make gadgets that fail. The death of his mother, 10 years before the movie opens, leaves him alone with a father (James Caan), who is unable to understand or express his love for his wacky son.
Still, things look ready to change for Flint with his invention that converts water into food — not vegetables and meat, but actual pizzas and burgers. Finally, he thinks, he has a real shot at fame and fortune, the town’s respect as well as a way to get noticed by pretty TV weather-girl Sam (Anna Faris).
Things don’t go quite according to plan, but chance and luck seem to be on Flint’s side when his device gets accidentally lodged in the clouds. Certainly, it’s hard for the sleepy town of Swallow Falls — not to mention the rest of the world — to ignore a meteorological phenomenon that “rains” hot dogs and ice cream. Despite nay-sayers such as his own dad among the townsfolk (Mr. T voices an amusing contribution), Flint seems all set to save his rundown island home, whose only income source is sardines.
But, inevitably, the technology runs amok, and as Sam puts it, conditions build dangerously up to “a perfect storm” of food that threatens the world. It is tempting to read in a cautionary tale of how we misuse resources, in the passages about the excess food dropping from the sky being swept into an ever-increasing food dump. Or, a message about the wastage inherent in American-sized food servings, as the sizes of the spaghetti and meatballs dropping from the sky get ever bigger.
Yes, it’s intriguing that most of the manna-like food dropping from the heavens falls into the fast food category, but to think of Cloudy… as a vanilla version of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me or Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc. is over-analysing the film. Cloudy…’s messages are simple ones about greed and vanity being conquered by honesty and the simple life, or the need for fathers and sons to find ways to talk to each other.
The filmmakers probably guessed, rightly, that the eccentric premise of the film could only carry it so far; despite varying the heaven-sent offerings from burgers to eggs and bacon to Jell-O, it was all going to get stale pretty soon. But by choosing the route of escalating the stakes from cute ice-cream covered landscapes to demonic headless chickens wanting to destroy the planet, the film loses the plot, and its initial quirky appeal. You move from gourmet enjoyment to indigestion due to over-indulgence.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Genre: Children’s film
Director: Chris Miller, Phil Lord
Voiced by: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell
Storyline: A nerdy inventor’s device to convert water into readymade foods goes awry and threatens to destroy the world in a hailstorm of over-sized edibles
Bottomline:A la carte quirkiness quickly changes to buffet boredom