Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Year: 2009
Production Co: Sony Pictures Animation
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Director: Phil Lord/Chris Miller
Writer: Phil Lord/Chris Miller
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr T, Neil Patrick Harris, Will Forte

I avoided watching this film for the longest time, but after The Lego Movie I sought it out, and I wasn't disappointed. Why? It made me realise how many family films try to generate laughs through just being silly (or stupid). Few of them are actually, truly funny.

By contrast, writer/director Phil Lord and Chris Miller are the closest thing animated comedy has to the classic work of the Zucker brothers, and as an avowed non-fan of this genre, I'd watch this again just for the lashings of humour.

All the other hallmarks are there – the moral (and moralising) of the story about what we should eat, how we should treat the environment etc. There's even a clever barb about how a smart woman has a better chance of making it in the entertainment/media industry by pretending to be dumb – especially if she's pretty.

But it's the scattershot visual and script gags coming a hundred miles an hour that are most memorable. Whether it's some off the cuff sight gag that's over as soon as you realise, the callbacks to earlier parts of the script or the oddball characterisations (Mr T as a way-too-officious cop, a character who can only talk in fishing metaphors and whose eyebrows are a character all their own), the laugh quotient is higher than many supposedly funny movies in the straight comedy genre.

Young wannabe inventor Flint (Hader) lives on a fishing community island but dreams of bigger things than working in his father's bait shop. But just when he's ready to give up, a machine designed to turn water into any kind of food is accidentally launched into the sky and starts raining cheeseburgers.

It starts an adventure that will transform the island, Flint himself and everyone around him. Suddenly Flint, his machine and his hometown are famous. Egged on by an opportunistic mayor eager to cash in on the island's newfound renown (and with a rapidly expanding waistline), Flint loves finally being the hero – especially when he catches the eye of pretty news intern Sam (Anna Faris).

But free food can't last forever, especially when the town has devised a system to fling the leftovers onto a growing pile that's only going to lead to trouble.

The visuals are beautiful, all colors, shapes and movement (and with some very realistic and funny depictions of giant food falling from the sky), and the laughs coming thick and fast do the rest. If all computer-generated cartoons could be this well thought out, the world would be a better place.

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