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Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is a young eccentric inventor living in a small town called Swallow Falls on a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He’s mostly a failure, known for a string of mishaps and failed attempts at inventing anything that works. His latest is an odd contraception he calls the “Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator” or FLDSMDFR. He’s not so good with naming things either. This whacky invention is meant to supplement the mostly sardine diet of the island folks, a people desperate for some variety in the meals but have yet to get a fast food franchise to set up a chain. When Lockwood hooks up his device to the city’s power supply, expecting the worst, it breaks free and rockets through town wrecking havoc before zipping up to the sky and disappearing. It seems like just another outrageous failure until . . . something marvelous happens. It begins to rain. Hamburgers.
You can bet that in a town where little fish is all they eat, have choices literally fall from the sky, becomes a big hit. The people embraces the phenomena, even changing the town’s name to Chewandswallow and marketing themselves as a tourist trap, er, site. When Flint upgrades the invention so special orders can be made, the food begins to mutate, becoming larger and larger as gluttonous tourists push the machine to create even more. So the food fights back. And not with a bit of indigestion as you’d might expect, after all, in Chewandswallow, food is as big as house. No. Instead, it arrives in the form of a tornado . . . made of cooked spaghetti and spicy meatballs. Now Flint’s really got a lot on his plate. See what I did there?
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and loosely based on the popular children’s book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs is certainly creative and has no lack of imagination as the FLDSMDFR can create any food ordered and pour it from the sky in buckets, leaving the townspeople awash in a variety of food they’ve never had before (clean up and smell are never really addressed). But along with paradise there is also consequence. Mother Nature is a finicky wench. Populated by some very charismatic characters, the animation style is suitably overly-exaggerated and colorful, while the story stretches the clever premise to a wee bit of caloric excess. Still, it’s often funny and there’s no denying the creativity behind all. And like every movie, it has one great (delicious) moment. With a side of pickles.
Everyone wants to succeed at something. That’s just common sense. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “That right, boys! Today’s the day I finally muck it all up.” At last I assume so. I don’t work in television programming. Anyway, for Flint, success in anything have been an elusive beast, but his lengthy history of determination in the face of continued failure has become legendary. But not so much in a good way. With such inventions as spray-on shoes and a doomed flying car, the only thing he managed to do is cause chaos. And lots of hair.
After the island’s sardine cannery went under and the economy nosedives, it left the good people with only surplus sardines to eat, which might be fine if you’re whale shark, but nearly all the people of Swallow Falls are not. Leave it to Flint to get to work and he invents a device that can actually turn water into food. But to run it right, he needs more power because the Big Book of Hollywood Mad Scientists clearly mandates this be so.
As mentioned, when he connects it to the nearby town power plant, it defies several natural laws and jets away (with him on it). They fly like a missile through town and right smack into local weather intern (and adorable blonde) Samantha Sparks (Anna Farris) who happens to be getting her first chance at a big break on live TV. The machine then rockets up the clouds leaving Flint tumbling off onto the street with his pet monkey (best friend) Steve (Neil Patrick Harris).
Frustrated and humiliated at the failure, Flint hides under the nearby docks where a frustrated and humiliated Samantha also arrives, not seeing Flint beneath her feet, until said feet literally bash him in the eyeballs when she sits down with a thud. It’s a touching meet cute.
She then recognizes him as the oaf who ruined her career jump and begins to lay into him about what a louse he is while he cowers under the dock. Meanwhile, Flints notices something odd happening. A pickle flops gently into the water. Then a clean slice of American cheese follows. He looks up and with an apoplectic face of shock sees a great roiling mass of rainbow colored clouds appear over the town, showering hamburgers like torrents of rain.
As thousands of burgers, buns, and more rain over the city, Flint suddenly realizes his invention works! He actually made something that didn’t cause property damage, or well, sort of. Either way, the moment allows Flint a chance to bask in his first success and let the people see that all the while, there was a real genius in their town just waiting to . . . oh wait. The whole thing backfires and the food eventually turns on them and begins a war of dietary proportions.
Still, before the children’s movie turns into a visual treatise about gluttonous consumerism the hubris of man’s futile attempts at controlling nature, this little moment reveals how perseverance (and continued risk of massive bodily harm) pay off, creating something like nothing before and winning the girl. Chew on that.