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Movie Review:
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs -- Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Rated PG for brief mild language.
Recommended for all ages.
Run Time: 89 minutes
Quick Take: It strays from the book, but Meatballs is still tasty, and kid-palatable, entertainment.

Meatballs Is Mouthwatering to Look At, But Doesn't Quite Master the Book-into-Movie Recipe

There are several morals to the new movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Never pretend you're less smart than you are.

Sardine analogies make terrible life lessons.

And, do not go to this movie hungry. Seriously. We're talking food. Falling like rain. As in cheeseburgers, bacon, eggs, mashed potatoes, spaghetti.

Hot dogs, fried chicken, pizza.

Ice Cream!

You might as well just point the car to the nearest Denny's and belly up for the Lumberjack and the Grand Slam.

The latest in 3-D CG, Meatballs gives the big-screen treatment to Ron and Judi Barrett's beloved picture book about the town of Chewandswallow and its food from the sky, three meals a day, seven days a week. The film's flurry of meteorological meals arrives courtesy of Flint Lockwood, a bumbling scientist with a master plan: to solve world hunger with the F.L.D.S.M.D.F.R (pronounced FLDSMDFR) that creates food out of water. The guy's already misguidedly invented rat birds (call me crazy, but isn't that a pigeon?) and a runaway TV, and does his best thinking in an outhouse marked with the words, "This is where the magic happens." He may be a genius, but it doesn't take a smarty pants to figure out that food + water + spontaneously dropping from the sky = not going to end well.

In bright, bold, sink-your-teeth-into-it 3-D, Meatballs has a lot going for it. The Neopolitan snow day? A wonder for kids whose fantasies come in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry (come to think of it, pretty spectacular for grownups, too). Laugh-out-loud moments include a talking monkey, awkward romance, carnivorous gummy bears, a unibrowed dad played stoically by James Caan, and Mr. T, who has officially arrived at retro cool.

Filmmakers preserved the book's most memorable images, like the getaway in food boats that will have kids wondering about the seaworthiness of Wonderbread, a pretzel, and Swiss cheese. But, this high-octane version does present a quibble -- namely that it isn't really the book. That might not matter to the uninitiated, but the devoted may scratch their heads wondering what an oversized baby encased in a chicken carcass has to do with grandpa's endearing tall tale about food from the sky. To be fair, it must be a tough job to turn 35 pages of picture book into 90 minutes of movie, a feat that has netted historically mixed results: the good (Horton Hears a Who), the "meh" (The Polar Express), and the ugly (The Cat in the Hat). All I can say is, Spike Jonze -- we're counting on you! (The poor guy is bringing to screen one of the most beloved tales of all, Where the Wild Things Are.) Meatballs' padding starts to run thin late in the game when it catapults into a high-speed-caper with an unfortunate subplot about a gluttonous mayor with capitalistic delusions whose appetite for, well, everything transforms him into a running fat joke. A statement about the perils of gluttony? Maybe. But I could have skipped the "yuk, yuks" of his rotundness wheeling around in a cart.

Still, the manic mayhem has plenty of laughs. And we can all be grateful for the fact that there were no brand-name colas or multiplex buttered popcorn raining from Chewandswallow's skies, meaning either that that the producers showed mercy on us cash-strapped parents, or that they missed an opportunity for the world's most lucrative (and obvious) product placement ever.

And, the movie does have its moments.

Just do yourself a favor.

Make sure to eat before you go.

Kids Will Like:
A mountain of ice cream, jelly beans falling to the ground, and no five-second rule? This is heaven. The detour away from the book won't bother most kids a bit -- they'll be too busy laughing.

Parents Will Like:
The movie starts out with the words, "Have you ever felt like you were a little bit different?" That pretty much applies to all of us -- and you can never get too many props in the self-confidence department. All of today's hyper focus on "glam" gets a nice little twist in comely weather girl Sam who gets "made under' into her perfectly wonderful self. You gotta love Mr. T's turn as a police officer, and Neil Patrick Harris's monosyllabic monkey.

Related Features:
Family Movie Night Ideas
More 2009 Movies

Visit Lisa Oppenheimer on Family.com!

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CeReality: 5 Families, 5 Stories, 1 Critical Meal

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