Very loosely based on Judi and Ron Barrett’s children’s book of the same name, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a Sony Pictures Animation. During release it became the highest-grossing film released by the animation house taking over $240m at the box office. It represents the directing debut of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who rose to prominence after directing successful animated TV show Clone High.
From a young age, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) wanted to be a famous inventor, unfortunately for him, he was stuck on the tiny island of Swallow Falls where the entire economy is run off of sardines. Against his father’s (James Caan) best wishes, he creates a machine that converts water into food and a freak accident sends the machine into the atmosphere causing it to start raining food down on the people of Swallow Falls. The power-hungry Mayor Shellbourne (Bruce Campbell) sees it as an opportunity to become successful and pushes for more and more food to fall as a tourist attraction, but the machine suffers a malfunction leading to terrible results.
To describe Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as simply an animated film for kids would be doing it a disservice. The rapid-fire speed at which it dispenses jokes, both verbal and visual is astounding. The jokes are not your standard slapstick, they delve into the obscure and frankly bizarre, which places it not only closer to Tim Burton than Disney. In fact with some of the recurring visual gags, like the Ratbirds or the increasing size of the Mayor, the film begins to toy with a more David Cronenberg-like body shock area. It never loses its sense of identity though and just when you think it’s going to go too far for younger viewers to appreciate, it reigns in the odd and provides a simple joke or slapstick moment.
The voice cast are superb, with highlights being the overzealous security guard played by Mr. T and the ever-expanding Mayor given a hilariously creepy edge by the excellent Bruce Campbell. Like the great laugh-out-loud comedies, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs keeps the jokes coming thick and fast and while they don’t all work, you’re only seconds away from the next laugh. It’s a feat that a lot of animated films fail to replicate and while Pixar may generally aim for the more traditional storytelling approach, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs presents such diverse and interesting character relationships and top quality unusual set-pieces that it stands alongside the best in the field.
It’s quite unbelievable to imagine that a successful mainstream animated film could reach such levels of absurdity, but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs not only goes there, but manages to find entertaining jokes that will appeal to audiences of all ages.