Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Review first published by Little White Lies

On the small sardine-fishing island of Swallow Falls, would-be inventor (and already-be geek) Flint Lockwood has a plan to win the town’s – and more importantly his father’s – approval. His latest invention, designed to convert water into food, is accidentally rocket-launched into the sky, but when a downfall of tasty cheeseburgers follows, both ambitious Mayor Shelbourne and aspiring weathergirl Sam Sparks see their mealticket in the miraculous machine and its creator.

All is going unprecedentedly well in Flick’s public and romantic life, until the town’s insatiable greed and his own hunger for fame create a perfect storm that might just bring the world its last supper – unless Flick, Sam, a Guatemalan cameraman-cum-pilot, the town’s nappy-wearing human mascot, a talking monkey and a technophobe fishmonger can together save everyone’s bacon.

Drawn from Judi Barrett’s 1978 book for children, this animated 3D extravaganza starts off so fast, so smart and so surreal that by the time it has locked into a more conventional narrative, you will already be hooked.

Sure its eleventh-hour heroics and ‘I love you, dad’ reconciliations are the stuff of cliché (and therefore always reassuring to children), but along the way there are plenty of sharp satirical digs at our society’s obsessions with shallow celebrity, ecological disregard, anti-intellectualism and rampant consumption – and who would not be both delighted (and horrified) by the uncanny spectacle of outsized articles of food falling like monstrous manna from heaven, in parodic fulfilment of our own most ingrained and unhealthy desires?

In other words, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs gives us exactly what we want, while slyly calling into question the very nature of our appetites. By packaging its concerns as glossy family entertainment, it gets to have its cake and eat it too, giving kids a sugar rush of broad comedy and big colours, while dishing up something altogether more bittersweet for the parents.

After all, as a hyperbolic exposé of unnatural obesity and environmental destruction, in many ways this serves as an unacknowledged prequel to the post-apocalyptic nightmare envisaged in Wall-E. Chew (and choke) on that!

Enjoyment: Carries off that Simpsons trick of being smart about all things dumb. 3

In Retrospect: It’s funny, but you might just choke on your laughter. 4

Anton Bitel