For the past few years, I have been lamenting the state of children's films in America. The past few films this year and last have been gross-tastic.
For years, marketing representatives and studio executives have been trying their hardest to gross kids and their parents out for the sake of entertainment. The ones that aren't disgusting are not up to par, with plotlines that only children can appreciate.
I wasn't looking forward to seeing Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs in theaters this past weekend. It looked like another children's film that only kids could enjoy. I reluctantly went into the theater, 3D glasses in hand, ready to give the film a shot, even though I figured it would be boring.
In Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is a kid genius looking to make his big invention grant him success. He falls short with his spray shoes that never come off, his goop to cure balding, and his monkey-thought translator.
After some years of tinkering, Flint finally comes up with a masterpiece machine that turns water into food. The machine works well, for a time, and brings much-needed tourism to his island town of Swallow. I kid you not.
The screenplay by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, based on the children's book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett, has a lot of heart. There are parallels of a loving father/son relationship and an unintentional public service announcement of what really causes obesity.
Police Officer Earl Deveraux (Mr. T.) and his son, Cal (Bobb'e J. Thompson) are the loving father and son duo of the film. Their relationship provides the model for what Flint's relationship should be with his dad, Tim (James Caan). The obesity comes into play when greedy Mayor Shelbourne (Bruce Campbell) can't stop shoveling food into his mouth and goes wild.
The direction by Lord and Miller is about par for this CGI-induced film, but they both paid special attention to details. Things like ice cream sandwiches and giant toast pieces used as boats really add character to this film. Of course, the 3D goggles helped carry that attention to detail further, but the film seems well thought out.
Now, as an educated woman, I saw the PSA on obesity and what eating all of the wrong food can do to your figure. I'm sure, subconsciously, the children in the audience got the same thing. The only thing that creeped me out about the plot was the fighting baked chicken. Headless chicken isn't supposed to come alive before your eyes in 3D. It's just not natural.
What concerns me is how hungry I was when I left the theater. All of that 3D, CGI'd food made me so hungry, I was ready to partake in any all-you-can-eat buffet. So that I'm not the only one suffering from food craving withdrawals, I'll give you a list of food in this film: hamburgers, sushi, pizza, ice cream, steak, chicken, peanut brittle, ice cream sandwiches, pancakes, eggs over easy, bacon, and – of course – spaghetti and meatballs. By the time the film was over, I felt like I had eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner, and was ready for another go-around.
Other voices of note are: Anna Faris as Sam Sparks (a weather girl trying to make her mark in the Big Apple), Andy Samberg as “Baby” Brent (the grown child star of the town's sardine industry), Benjamin Bratt as Manny (Sam's cameraman/pilot), Neil Patrick Harris as Steve (the thinking out loud monkey), Al Roker as Patrick Patrickson (the news anchor who openly teases Sam on-air and bares a slight resemblance to CNN's T.J. Holmes), Lauren Graham as Fran Lockwood (Flint's mother who always believed in him), Max Neuwirth as Young Flint Lockwood, and Angela Shelton as Regina Deveraux (she's obviously the backbone of her family).
All in all, I was happily surprised that Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is actually good. The plot lulled a little in the middle, but it has great lessons and is highly tolerable for the parents in the audience wanting to expose their kids to something that will keep them quiet for, at least, an hour and a half.
But before you go to see this film, for those of you who haven't already, make sure you plan to go to dinner afterward. Even if you eat a tub of popcorn and drink a gallon of soda, you will still be very hungry.