A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adaptation of the classic children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is bound to attract the 10-and-under set. While there's nothing overtly age-inappropriate in the movie, expect a bit of salty language along the lines of "hell" and and the occasional mild insult like "stupid" or "knuckle scrapers." The few tense/slightly scary scenes are weather- and giant food-related -- which could upset little kids who are sensitive to fears about natural disasters -- and there's a brewing romance between the main character and a weather reporter. Although no grand life lessons are offered, the movie does center on a son's need for fatherly encouragement and the idea that you shouldn't compromise who you are just to be popular. The movie's plot is very different than the book's, so those expecting a straight adaptation may be disappointed.
What's the story?
Based loosely on the popular children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this animated adventure takes the book's story about a town where weather provides fully cooked meals and turns it into a 3-D fantasy about Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader), a young inventor who creates a device that transforms water into food. When Flint's invention is launched into the sky, he inadvertently saves the town of Swallow Falls from financial and nutritional ruin. Helping the town make its unique claim to fame is weather reporter Sam (Anna Faris), who's smitten with Flint. As the Swallow Falls residents (especially the fatter-and-fatter mayor, voiced by Bruce Campbell) become greedier with their daily meal requests, Flint's invention becomes more and more overheated -- until it leads to a culinary disaster that could destroy the world.
Is it any good?
Once fans of the book reset their expectations, they'll laugh at the sight of a Neapolitan-ice-cream snowfall or a drizzle of steak falling onto diners' plates at a trendy, roofless restaurant. The food in the movie isn't magical like in the book; it's the result of a science experiment that eventually runs amok. But that's fine, because the funny dialogue and the colorful food scenes are entertaining enough to make this breezy, amusing adventure a sweet treat for the whole family.
Sony Pictures Animation may not be Pixar (and, to be fair, no other animation studio is Pixar -- yet), but it previously scored with the fantastically imaginative Monster House, the charming buddy comedy Open Season, and the penguin's paradise Surf's Up. Cloudy is the studio's first foray into the profitable 3-D genre, and thanks to all of the food sequences, it's an ideal choice for the technology. The voice talent is there (Faris, in particular, is an adroit voice actress, and Mr. T is laugh-aloud funny as an overly eager town cop), though the story is so far removed from the book upon which it's supposedly based that it will likely take a moment for admirers of the picture book to see the correlation beyond the fact that there's food falling from the sky.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' message about compromising yourself for the sake of popularity. Is that ever worth it? How does Sam change once she knows that Flint likes that she's actually smart?
How does the movie portray technology? When does the experiment go wrong?
Why does Flint want his father's approval so badly? Does his father have a point in discouraging Flint's inventions?
- In theaters: September 18, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 5, 2010
- Cast: Andy Samberg, Anna Faris, Bill Hader
- Directors: Chris Miller, Phil Lord
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief mild language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.