Local backyard scientist Flint Lockwood invents a machine that turns water into food. It shoots up into the sky and transforms clouds into food that rains down on the little village. The food rain attracts all sorts of folks and causes general mayhem.
I love this animated feature. It’s hilarious. I think it is one of the best animations of the past decade. Now, I only recently learned that it was based on a children’s book. Maybe because I didn’t grow up in the US, I never got to read it, and so I didn’t have any expectations for the movie. But I loved the key idea of the story: that of food falling from the sky. For an animator (which I’m not, but I can imagine what it is like to be one) food falling from the sky is such a rich source of creativity. You can let your imagination run wild and show us the most outrageous ideas. And who doesn’t love food?
When it comes to the characters, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs has a really solid cast with a really solid story. We have the inventor of the food machine, Flint Lockwood, who struggles with his father, who wants him to work in his sardines shop. Flint is a typical nerdy genius kid and his father, a fisherman, is a typically grounded, heavy-browed grumbling dad. The animation is stylized to exaggerate their features, like Flint’s unruly hair and his father’s overhanging brow. Then we have Sam Sparks, a weather forecaster whose career receives a boost by the raining food. I found them really easy to identify with. Many side characters add comedic elements, such as Steve the lab monkey and Mr T the police officer.
The story is good-natured and warm-hearted. Nobody is really bad here. Flint and Sam are looking for recognition and success, which they find, and develop feelings for each other. The supposedly bad characters, like the major, also act out of a desire to want to be more than they are. The major just wants to be big, and he grows big through the food, and little Baby Sardines, all grown up now into an abrasive teenager, is just looking for a new identify for himself. Flint and his father accept and understand each other towards the end as they need each other.
The film works best for its visual gags, and these go far beyond anything food related. There is an Edgar Wright-like sense of visual comedy here, for example when we see Flint working in his laboratory, or when everybody looked up at the sky and gasped. The way he announces all his actions in capital letters, and the way his hands wave across the keyboards. And jokes are properly set up, like Steve’s feelings about gummy bears. The animation is really beautiful too. The use of colors really feels inspired by weather phenomena like rainbows and radiant light.
The movie is adapted to screen and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who went on to direct more successful comedies, like 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie. Their great work is already apparent in this earlier work. Cloudy… comes from the Sony Pictures Animation studio, which isn’t well known for its good films, really. They got some success with the Hotel Transylvania movies and recently with the Angry Birds movie, but they are still a small player on the scene. There is also a sequel, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, of course, and it is worth checking out but doesn’t quite reach the same level as the first one.
I’m not sure what it is, but Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs hits all the sweet spots for me. The joke density is also at Edgar Wright levels so that you can see it multiple times and catch stuff that you missed the first time. I rewatch it regularly. High recommended.