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Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) invents a machine that rains hamburgers and ice cream on his hometown, Sardine Falls.

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animat/å©2009 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

2 out of 4 stars


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

  • Written and directed by Chris Miller and Phil Lord
  • Featuring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg and Mr. T
  • Classification: PG

Any 3-D animated film featuring a mile-high spaghetti cyclone is going to interest little kids. Especially if the film throws in a painless pun with every meatball. For example, "It's sardine to get better" in Sardine Falls.

And for 20 minutes or so, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs , which is based on the popular 1978 kids' book by Judi and Ron Barrett, is great fun. One thing is sure: No comedy has a more promisingly ludicrous set up. Hidden under the "t" on the map of the Atlantic Ocean, Sardine Falls is a one-flavour island. Kids, parents, everyone eats sardines for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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Flint Lockwood's dad hopes that one day Flint will run the family sardine bait shop. But Flint (voiced by Bill Hader) has other fish to fry. He's an inventor who hopes to diversify his town's food options. To that end, he has built an invention that turns Sardine Falls' other great resource - water - into hamburgers.

Soon, he's pointing his gadget at the clouds and dialling up storms of steak and ice cream. (Parents will be pleased to know that an occasional vegetable also drops from the sky.) Eventually, Flint becomes a hero, drawing the attention of a ditzy blond weathergirl, Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris).

Too soon, however, the animated film loses its sense of the ridiculous. We know things are sardine to go wrong when Flint and his dad begin fighting over the boy's irresponsible nature - and the film is on the dad's side! Then it turns out Sam is actually a brilliant meteorologist who plays dumb to get a network job. There's also a dreary subplot involving a kindly cop (a perpetually shouting Mr. T) and his cutie-pie son.

No comedy should come bogged down with so many Important Life Lessons. Older kids, tweenagers who came of age watching The Simpsons or Family Guy , won't sit still for cartoon family values. And adult guardians certainly won't find any fun in Flint and Sam's tediously chaste relationship. (As if characters like Hader and Faris, whose credits include Superbad and The House Bunny , could have ever entered into such a dull union in real life.)

So what Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs leaves us with is sporadic showers of laughs for kids under 10. That's a shame, because the film could have been a delight for everyone, if only it hadn't learned to behave. As it is, the film feels like a zany spitball fight that comes to a sobering conclusion when the principal enters the room.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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