Directed by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Written by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T
Being a trailblazer does not always come with the easiest road, because taking on the challenge means attempting something no one has ever done. This inventive spirit brings life to those who want to make the world a better place, which we see to an extremely comical degree in the wonderful Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Always having a passion for innovation and invention, Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) has developed a reputation for messing up his old town with his experiments rather than helping. When he comes up with the idea of a machine that can take precipitous air and convert it to food, he becomes a hero, which faces complications when the townsfolk get far too reliant on it.
The entire set up of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs sets up a world we have never seen before. It takes place on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where the folks rely heavily on the sardine business for commerce and food. Once the film comically points out the rest of the world has discovered a collective disgust for this product, the town faces an economic depression. What was once a booming town now sees trouble, which Flint has been attempting to fix for some time now. His inventions come with incredible ambition and he gets fairly close to inventing things like flying cars, among other technological breakthroughs. However, his machine to turn the weather into food really saves the day. It first arrives with a shower of hamburgers falling from the sky and continues to expand to a variety of nourishment.
This invention opens up an entire can of questions I have that are rightfully immaterial to the film because it would be dumb for it to focus on these minute details. However, seeing as this is my review, I want to present them here. First, why are the people okay just picking up food from the ground and eating it after it has fallen? Most likely because they’ve eaten nothing but sardines for several years now. Also, why does no one question the content of the food and how it magically appears? Surely, something must be grossly artificial about them, but seeing as we eat at McDonald’s there’s not much of a difference, so point taken. The logistics this film does give concrete answers to also come in clever ways, including the concern of trash and what should be done about the excess food. With the most human response I have ever seen, Flint creates a machine called the “Out of Sight,” which catapults the food out of sight for it to be out of mind with no disregard of where it lands. This genuinely made me laugh for a solid three minutes where I needed to pause the film.
As expected, with a machine that could do plenty of good for others, political ambitions begin to get in the way for what the mayor proposes can be done with this machine. For a nice thing Flint wanted to create for his town, this film eloquently displays the horror of human consumption and how we will eat ourselves into a coma if we have the food available to do it. This causes the foundational issues with the machine as it gets overworked and serves as a commentary, seeing as people will eat until they explode when going to a buffet. I’ve done it too.
Even with all of the comedy surrounding the machine and how it alters the town, the true beauty of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs comes in the relationships Flint has with his father Tim (James Caan) and love interest Sam Sparks (Anna Faris). The relationship he has with his father faces complications because Tim never expresses how he feels about his son in an eloquent manner. Flashing back to the earlier parts of Flint’s life shows how his mother supported his dreams to be an inventor far more than his father. Getting back to the present timeline, we see the same thing where Tim wishes his son would just follow in his footsteps, of working in a dying industry. This father-son relationship can be translated for many folks because men have been conditioned to not show emotion because it indicates some sort of weakness. This leaves Tim in situations where he wants his son to know the pride he has for him, but he cannot put the words together. Most likely has to do with his own upbringing, but the relationship they build in this film creates such a level of warmth.
Sam arrives in the story as a reporter sent from New York City to cover an event and runs into Flint. The character of Sam carries such sadness because of her passion for meteorology and then facing the reality of what it takes to make it on television. She hides her “nerdiness” around others and attempts to act like a clueless pretty woman because she has been conditioned to believe this serves her best in this field. It’s honestly heartbreaking seeing those moments where she shows genuine excitement for things Flint mentions, only for her to realize she’s exposing herself and then retreats. A strongly composed character, who serves as a strong supporting piece to the story, but also an indictment on an industry more focused on looks rather than substance and passion.
Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller simply do not miss when making films, as they always inject their style of humor into their projects and it always works. So many moments in the story demonstrates some piercing commentary on the state of the world and how this machine impacts the people on this island. These townsfolk change their tune quickly and will use it as it selfishly impacts them. The animation looks beautifully unique in the way the food looks in comparison to the characters. It has such a textured feel to it. Whenever these two get attached to any project, I know to be on the lookout, as quality will be guaranteed.
Jam-packed with a plethora of gut-busting jokes and observations, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs brings forth an absurd concept and brings meaning to it. The comedic moments always land perfectly and in unexpected ways. I mean, when you have Flint discovering how to enjoy a snowball fight and then seeing him go ballistic with precision when throwing these ice cream snowballs at people, you just know this film overall serves as a treat. It has meaning along with its humor, which helps elevate any film trying to be attractive to both children and adults. It certainly succeeds in a glorious way.