Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

Review in a Hurry: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is an exuberant comedy with sleek animation and a kicky script. The voice work by Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and—yes!—Mr. T bring a spontaneity to a meticulous, and impressive, confection.

The Bigger Picture: Thoughtful, well-written spectacles like Up and Wall-E have elevated the standards of the animation genre to huge heights. But happily, Cloudy soars to meet those raised expectations: The jokes are clever but avoid annoying wink-wink references intended only for the adults, the characters are all zany but solidly crafted, and the animation is dazzling.

Best of all, the sweet story avoids the darker qualities of recent allegedly kid-friendly animation (Coraline, 9), and opts instead for fluffy fun.

Here, Flint (Hader) is an an oddball inventor who, despite his best intentions, keeps creating junk (his hybrid species of flying ratbirds terrorize the neighbors). Flint lives on the destitute island of Swallow Falls, and to revitalize the town and lift spirits, he creates a machine that makes tasty food from water.

But he clearly has not seen the Transformers movies, because if he did, he'd know that machines are not to be trusted! The inevitable but entertaining battle ensues. The pacing and script are frenetic. The quick zooms, swirls and sweeping wide angle shots of an invented landscape keep things bustling, but the biggest jolt of energy comes from the unseen actors.

Though the characters on screen are rubbery or blocky blobs with goofy mustaches or oversize glasses, you get the sense that you're watching actors goof around and improv masterfully. Speaking of being masterful, Mr. T is the cherry on top of this confection. He has a plum role and brings a tremendous amount of energy and spunk to it.

With all these elements combined, Cloudy sets another high watermark for recent animation movies.

The 180—a Second Opinion: There are still some kid's-flick clichés clogging up Cloudy: dead mother, unnecessary romantic plot and some half-baked message about junk food.


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