There’s something missing from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs that would push it over the edge into the realm of something that immediately enters the realm of films that will be watched over and over. Some magic isn’t quite there, and it stands out as some kind of flaw by virtue of being so close to that must-own category.
Oddly, the most noteworthy aspects of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs seem to be all the ways it could have gone horribly wrong and didn’t. Food gags, and juvenile humor that follows in several directions from a situation based on eating too much of same, are pleasantly absent. The sad and sappy driving force is left as just that, and doesn’t beat us over the head with the message that even the younger viewers probably get rather quickly.
Our story is that of Flint Lockwood, hopeful inventor and resident of a tiny island in the Atlantic famous for its sardine industry. Unfortunately, at a certain point people discovered that sardines are rather gross, and now the little island is in pretty bad shape.
In an effort to save his fellow islanders from having to eat their own sardines, Flint invents a machine that can turn water into any kind of food you want. But, with a history of inventions that do not quite go according to plan, Flint is up against a lifetime of near misses, and less-than-friendly public opinion. When it seems that the invention works, and Flint’s little speck on the map becomes the island that rains food, everyone goes a little too far, a little too fast, and eventually someone is going to have to pick up the check.
Along the way we meet a varied crew of extras, who may or may not represent various character flaws/deadly sins. We have Sam Sparks, the inexperienced weather reporter, who does everything she can to pretend she isn’t as smart as she is. The town mayor, who wants things bigger, in any sense you’ve got to offer. There’s also the guy who was the face of sardines when he was a baby, and is comfortable with that carrying him as long as possible. And, of course, we’ve also got Flint’s dad, a simple man who never could quite get the hang of his own son, and there’s Flint himself.
Gluttony, Pride, Sloth, Greed, Despair, wherever you turn, there’s someone fitting the bill. Brilliantly, none of these things are mentioned, even in passing, except in the case of the mayor, who goes a little overboard on several fronts… and then, sort of doesn’t.
The somewhat odd story of some somewhat odd people trying to figure out how to fit in manages its own efforts at fitting in by following in its heroes footsteps. As much as it is a bit unsure of its abilities, it carries on, and makes no effort so much as simply trying to stay true to itself. It doesn’t seem completely convinced that you’ll like it, but it thinks spray-on shoes are really cool, and if some snag turns up after the fact, the hell with it… it’s got spray-on shoes!
There’s a clever little light in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, that makes it a treat, but not quite a treasure. It’s great balance of non-juvenile humor and solid story, which nevertheless has great appeal for a younger crowd, but in the end it’s missing an ingredient or two, and perhaps slaps the end together a little too quickly. Nevertheless, I find it hard to imagine an audience that would find themselves disappointed.
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