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Hollywood Product: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Charming children's book becomes an eye-popping 3-D computer-animated feature

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GENRE: Sci-fi foodie adventure

THE PITCH: Young crackpot inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) accidentally revitalizes his struggling hometown with a gizmo that causes “food weather” to fall from the sky. When greed and pride cause ginormous menu items to wreak havoc, it’s like a Roland Emmerich disaster film combined with an all-you-can eat buffet.

MONEY SHOTS:
The big moments of weather food all look great, including the initial, manna-like rain of cheeseburgers and a snowfall of ice cream. Disaster weather includes a terrifying yet delicious-looking spaghetti tornado and a tidal wave following a burst dam of massive “leftovers.” At the finale, Flint’s food machine defends itself with flying pizza slices and huge, ravenous roast chickens.

BEST BAD PUN: “You may have seen a meteor shower, but you’ve never seen a shower meatier than this!” declares Flint’s love interest, weather channel intern Sam Sparks (Anna Faris).

WORST BAD PUN:
“What if we’ve bitten off more than we can chew?” worries Sam when the food weather starts getting out of control.

CREATIVE VOICE CASTING: Bruce Campbell voices the grasping mayor, while Mr. T plays an overzealous police officer. Hader’s joined by “Saturday Night Live” castmates Andy Samberg and Will Forte.

SOUNDTRACK HIGHLIGHTS: Lesley Gore’s catchy “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” accompanies a montage of Flint taking orders for meals from the skies. For the tweens, Miranda Cosgrove croons “It’s Raining Sunshine” over the closing credits.

PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Flint makes a palatial playhouse of Jell-O for Sparks, and a horde of marauding Gummi Bears attack during the finale.

FASHION STATEMENTS: Flint’s mother gives him a “professional-grade white lab coat,” which becomes his signature garment. Sam reveals her inner geek when she wears squarish glasses and a scrunchy on her ponytail. Child-actor-turned-flabby-has-been Baby Brent (Andy Samberg) wears a diaper in public.

HOW’S THE 3-D? Good! In a year overstuffed with 3-D films, the gimmick feels like a natural extension of Meatballs’ weiners-from-heaven premise. Plus, even mundane objects like chain-link fences look cool.

BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL? Almost. Judi and Ron Barrett’s charming children’s book has the feel of a tall tale retold at bedtime. The character plots add little, but the filmmakers take the book’s memorable images to spectacular lengths.

FOODIE SUBTEXT?
The devastating effects of giant edibles and one boy’s “food coma” caused by a sugar binge offer an allegory for American overeating and unhealthy diet habits. It’s like Super Size Me for kids.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Neither the character development nor the “human” animation prove appetizing, especially a stale plot about Flint winning his father’s respect. Otherwise, the film serves a fresh concept and eye-popping visuals, topped with some tasty one-liners and sight gags. Consider it an amuse bouche compared to one of Pixar’s CGI main courses.

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