"Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs," the movie: Tastes great, less filling
For 30 years kids have been charmed by the tall tale in Judi and Ron Barrett's quirky and clever book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Now filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller have put it on the big screen as an animated movie with a stellar vocal cast. Look for it in theaters Friday. But except for the ginormous pancake that smothers the school (and the cheers of the kids afterward), fans of the book may find little resemblance to the story they know.
Instead of an inventive grandpa spinning an outlandish bedtime story, the source of the action is a luck-deficient inventor named Flint Lockwood (voice by Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader). And the rain of food isn't a natural phenomenon -- the falling burgers and bacon are now created by one of Lockwood's wacky inventions.
The story also now includes a love interest (Anna Faris) from a national weather channel, a father-son communications problem, a conniving mayor -- and the inimitable Mr. T, who of course is a big fan of Mommas.
We were fortunate enough to catch an advance screening Saturday at AMC Veterans in Tampa. Sony Animation's 3-D effects are truly amazing -- at one point, you'll feel like you really are about to be flattened by a huge ear of corn. And the sound is amazing, especially when the food starts to plop onto the streets of Chewandswallow.
The movie has a great lesson for girls in not dumbing themselves down to impress guys. And our kids said they liked the movie -- I mean it is targeted right at them. They especially liked Steve the Monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), who wears a Lockwood invention that translates his thoughts (most of which involve being hungry for gummi bears).
Fair warning to the fidgety: At an hour and 20 minutes, the movie feels a little long, and the gags tend to produce mild chuckles rather than hearty guffaws -- except for a remote control TV that makes a surprise appearance or two.
By the way, if you want a taste (pardon the pun) of what to expect from the movie, check out the official Web site. It features the usual mix of film clips and games for kids, but also lets you pick what kind of food you'd like to see fall from the sky. Mmm, chocolate ice cream, anyone?
-- Sherry Robinson