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Review – Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Click poster for more info.

Click poster for more info.

With the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan. Directed by Phil Lord, Chris Miller. Rated PG for brief mild language. 81 minutes.

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.For kids who measure their ages in single digits and halves, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS has a lot going for it. Based on a picture book of the same name, it is a 3D movie that is – more or less – about playing with your food. What’s not to like? Jumping on Jell-O. Steak falling from the sky. Dueling with Gummi Bears. The problem is what happens when you hit the big “One-Oh” and suddenly such childishness isn’t as amusing.

The story is set on a self-contained island whose major product is sardines. “Baby” Brent (voice of Andy Samberg) is the model for the logo, although he has grown up and out. Young Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) believes there’s more to life than fish, even though his father (James Caan) runs the local bait and tackle shop. Flint is an inventor and his latest invention converts water into whatever type of food you want. It’s soon hovering over the island, raining down hot dogs, mac and cheese, pasta, and a variety of other products.

Is this a good thing? For a while it seems great making Flint more popular than Brent, although Flint’s dad – who sees fishing as a metaphor for life – is less than impressed. It even looks like the nerdy Flint might win the girl, weather reporter Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), sent there to cover the strange meteorological activity. Yet the device seems to be changing and getting out of control, with the food growing big and the storms becoming more frequent. It will get messy before the final fadeout.

This film from Sony Pictures Animation shows why Pixar remains the gold standard of contemporary animation. Where “Up” had a story that appealed – in different ways – to all ages, this is very much a kid’s film. It’s loud and filled with slapstick, and the “sensitive” moments are plodding and obvious. The characters may be shown in 3D but they’re flat. Where movies like “Up” and “Ratatouille” make us care for their heroes, the characters here lack substance. Flint’s longing for his father’s love is a plot point, nothing more.

As for the visuals, it’s important to note that, once again, the 3D effects are utterly unnecessary (much as they’ve been in almost every 3D movie released in the current craze). They may be vivid, but it would like just as good in traditional 2D animation without the bother of wearing those glasses. It’s a gimmick, nothing more, and viewers should be wary of paying extra for it. It simply isn’t worth it.

“Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” is perfectly okay for children. Its messages of hard work, taking responsibility for your actions even when things go wrong, and looking out for other people are all wholesome and exemplary. The antics with giant foodstuffs will even seem amusing to them. However parents are advised to flip a coin, with the loser having to take the youngsters to go see it.•••

Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind The Scenes Of The Great Romantic Comedies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Brookline.


About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

19 responses »

  1. Sounds like you’re beginning to suffer from rumpy Old Man syndrome. In the theatre I saw it in, both young and old in the audience were enjoying themselves. 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and #1 at the box office seems to indicate our experience was shared by far more people than yours.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      Anyone who sees a movie is entitled to their own opinion and all I can do is offer my own and hope I provide enough information for people to make up their own minds even if they disagree with me. However I don’t really care about whether I’m with the majority of critics or not. I’m rather consistently at the 66% mark in whether I go with the pack on Rotten Tomatoes. Further, box office isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality either, or else “Transformers 2” would be the best movie of the year instead of the moronic trash it actually is.

      So, no, I’m not a grumpy old man, just someone with different tastes, and I respect your right to disagree with mine.

  2. I respect your opinion fully and completely, but this movie was so good and so FUNNY i almost died in theaters laughing my a@# off. But your entitled to your opinion and I respect that.

  3. I think it was an enjoyable movie, is not the best movie of the year but it’s definetly worth my money. Is not Pixar quality but it’s fun and it has its funny moment.s

  4. for a children’s movie this one is A+. this reviewer is out of touch.

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      Everyone is entitled to their opinion if they’ve seen the movie, so I have no problem with people who disagree with me and feel no need to answer such comments. However when it becomes personal, I do have to answer. This person feels I am “out of touch” because they think it’s a great “children’s movie.”

      My suggestion is that this person reread my review, and see what I said about his film with regard to its value as a children’s movie.

  5. this movie was overdone, and i think very stupid. not worth my money at all

  6. This reviewer is very much in touch with the problems of this film. I unfortunately lost the coin toss and had to sit and watch it. My two older kids (7 and 9) loved it but my 5 year old kept saying she wanted to go home. So did I. It was pretty disgusting food wise, with gender and racial stereotypes and a weak story line – far from the original inoffensive storybook. The paperback version of the film states that ‘sardines are disgusting’. How helpful to validate children’s refusal to eat healthy (or even any) food.

  7. I’m 26 years old. Saw this movie tonight and can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie. It was absolutely brilliant!

  8. I have to agree with those that thought it was funny. My sister and I brought our children (ages 6, 8 and 9) and we all thought it was funny. The kids loved it, my daughter even said she almost cried at the end because of the touching and happy outcome. My sister and I laughed out loud frequently throughout the film – the “pop-culture” reverences and dry humour were spot-on. Perhaps you have to have that kind of sarcastic sense of humour to appreciate it. I thought the animation was nicely done – especially the water, food textures, and hair. And sexist? That was the whole point of the Sam Sparks story-line. They were making fun of the out-dated view of “weather girls”. Sam was at her best, and more attractive, when she was her smart self. As for the police officer – I saw it more as Mr. T. spoofing on his own image, rather than being a racist portrayal. Anyway – to each his own I guess. (and it’s true, sardines are kind of gross, anchovies are much better, and less greasy.)

  9. Just saw “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” with my 5 and 7 year old boys. I read the preceding reviews prior to going and was cautiously optimistic that my kids would have a good time and that I might even be amused even though my personal enjoyment is not something I expect. This movie is just awful. If you are expecting to laugh or to even be amused, it will only occur if you are the self-deprecating type and can find humor in the fact that you wasted 90 minutes of time and $20+ going to see this film.

    I have to admit that my experiences relative to animated films, except for the Disney ones of my youth, are perhaps more limited than for others. My body of such film-viewing work includes efforts from perhaps the last ten years. I will also admit that I was spoiled by my earliest experiences with my children – Toy Story & Toy Story 2, Nemo, Shrek and probably a few others – perhaps I might throw in The Incredibles and Cars. The movies that have followed have just been unwatchable although I have not seen anything that might not be considered age-appropriate for my kids.

    I feel as if the last four to six movies have been incomplete efforts whether they were theoretically recreating an old children’s book classic or were just cooked up to lure in hopeful moviegoers, like me, without any attention to detail, plot, humor or character. There was some laughter in the theater during the previews of films scheduled for Thanksgiving time release but my five year old wanted to go home after 20 minutes and finally climbed on my lap and fell asleep after about 40 minutes. I was very jealous.

    My seven year old managed to hold back his yawns but never even chuckled and most tellingly, had not a word to say, line to repeat or question to ask when the movie graciously finished. In Meet the Robinson’s, you are at least able to empathize with the main oddball inventor character as some time is taken to provide a background. In this mess, Flick is not a character you can applaud for his perceived success or sympathize with during any point even though the Director clearly wants to force feed the father-son relationship, communication problem and social ineptitide relating to the weather woman he loves.

    There is not a single character in this film that you can care about at all as they flash on and off the screen without depth or credibility. I did not read the book but can only hope and imagine that it offered something much more substantial and would think that the author, if alive, must be mortified by this whole production except perhaps for the royalties. We have many DVDs in our home, most of them purchased after first seeing the film, and many of them get watched multiple times with friends, on road trips and flights. I can honestly say that Meatballs is definitely not a DVD that will be on either boys Christmas or birthday list -another tell tale sign of a flop.

    When I first began watching such movies with my kids, I had no expectations of being amused or even maintaining any interest level. As mentioned above, I was pleasantly surprised by the genius of many of the first films I saw in that they could entertain young kids in a positive way, while also throwing in some lines that adults could appreciate and actually laugh at. I think of all of the films I have seen in recent memory that were all Meatball variety, some perhaps better, Bolt, Up, Chihuahua, Hotel for Dogs come to mind, and find myself longing for Toy Story 3.

    What disappoints me most is that our choice today was Meatballs, Wild Things or Toy Story 1 &2 double feature in 3D. I chose to pass on Wild Things for now but should have gone for the double feature of Toy Story. Even after seeing each of them many times, I am certain that I would have enjoyed it more and I know that my two boys would have had a more satisfying experience assuming that satsifaction is measured by laughter and interest rather than napping.

  10. I totally agree with you… Box office receipts mean nothing. This film is terrible. My 6yr old was not impressed and I wish I had waited for video. At least I could have done something else while it played.

  11. Took my son to his first movie at the theater (we don’t go much, no movie is worth the money)and Cloudy was a perfect first pick. This was as good as any other children’s movie and he enjoyed it. The only problem I saw with the movie is the work phrase “Hell Hole” was used in it. Being based off of a popular children’s book that many teachers use in their classroom, I see it as a mistake to use inappropriate language. Now teachers will not have the ability to play this film within their classrooms, making the movie less money in the long run.

  12. Just went to see this movie with our 7 year old son. Both myself and my wife are close to 40. I can’t remember a movie I had seen in the theater that made me laugh as hard as I did during this one. While some of the plot ideas made no sense at all, you have to consider who the film it targeted at. As for the adults who thought this movie was terrible – I feel sorry for you. Every kids movie does not have to have hidden adult-aimed jokes to keep the parents amused while flying right over the little ones’ heads. This movie did have some references that only adults would appreciate ( the “Simon” game on Flint’s security door), but if you want a more grown-up film, this probably is not going to be one of the choices.
    If I did not have a small child, I still would have thought this move was just as funny.
    Our little boy still talks about this movie and all his favorite parts.
    For what it’s worth, I think that if you are looking for the next “Finding Nemo” or “Toy Story”, this movie won’t be it. If you are looking to be entertained while not trying to find fault, this movie will provide you with worthwhile entertainment and laughs.

  13. Saw this movie yesterday night, completely agree with the reviewer. All the kids enjoyed the movie . But not definitely for grown ups, unfortunately (or fortunately) i am grown up so couldn’t enjoy the movie.

  14. The humour is of the surreal, logical but ridiculous variety. It is not character-based. Whether you enjoy it is a matter of taste, not age. Personally, I found the film a blessed relief from the pointless, blatant pop culture references that pass for humour in most animated films these days.

  15. So agree with you Daniel. Up was the last animated movie I saw, and I loved it. And this was such a letdown. Nothing for me to add more than what you have already said except that I thought it was a brilliant review. I found myself waiting till the end, got a headache from all that screeching and whining, and couldn’t care less about any of the characters. Predictable. Funny? Yeah sure. I laughed AFTER the movie ended. In sheer relief.

  16. It’s been awhile since I have been pleasantly surprised. I saw this with my 9 yr old son and 6 yr old daughter. If the movie is slow my daughter won’t sit still – she never moved from her seat. My son loved it though I think I may have enjoyed it more than he did. If you go to the movies to be “entertained” by Shindler’s List then I guess this isn’t for you. If you enjoyed Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, Harold & Kumar go to White Castle, then this is right up your alley. I thought this movie was hilarious and I am 40. “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” are too “serious”; if you are looking for something light and fun this is it.

  17. Clearly the essence of this movie went over your head, you only seemed to have grasped the most superficial, simple elements of this film and missed all the rest. I think I can guess the kind of generic, spoon fed garbage that would get your seal of approval.


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