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The Independent Critic

Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Angela Shelton, Lauren Graham, Al Roker
Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Phil Lord, Chris Miller (screenplay)
Judi Barrett, Ron Barrett (Book)
Rated PG
90 Mins.

 "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" Review 
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The truth is somewhere in the middle.

With Sony Animation's "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," the naysayers are likely to be out in full force with this film that takes an "Over the Hedge" approach to animated filmmaking by blending oddball humor, adorable characters and strangely serious storylines with environmental and social messages to boot.

Still others are likely to applaud the film's intelligent and insightful vision, though it would be a huge surprise to find anyone who feels like this film achieves anywhere near the magic and the fun of the Judi and Ron Barrett book upon which it is based.

The truth lies in the middle.

"Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" starts off much like Pixar's "Up" in the sense that the film's best scenes are contained in its first 20 minutes and nothing that happens after that comes close to achieving the sheer awesomeness, coolness, fun or magic of those early scenes.

In the film, Flint (Bill Hader) is a failed inventor with a nagging father (James Caan) who wants him to take over the family sardine farm in the town of Swallow on Sardine Island. Flint, of course, has a bigger vision and sets out to rescue the island from its main dietary staple, you guessed it, sardines. Flint invents a machine that can turn water into food and before you know it a wide variety of increasingly gluttonous foods begin falling from the sky.

Unfortunately, co-writers and directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord become a touch too smart for their own good in the film's second half and charm and humor give way to messages about self-confidence, beauty, greed, the environment and relationships. While these suddenly serious messages do bog down the film just a tad, Lord and MIller keep the proceedings moving at quite the rapid clip and, despite what the naysayers may say, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" remains a genuinely funny, feel good and entertaining film with just the right blend to please children and parents.

So, too, there are moments in the film that feel a touch hypocritical. While most children aren't likely to catch on just who Anna Faris is, it feels a tad ingenuous to have her character preaching and suddenly living out the hazards of beauty when we all know Faris did just the opposite in her last film, "The House Bunny." While the lessons don't necessarily always resonate, the characters do and the actors providing the voice work are uniformly strong including supporting players ranging from Mr. T to Bruce Campbell to Angela Shelton and good ole' Andy Samberg.

The animation is fairly straightforward in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," neither groundbreaking nor decidedly retro yet fastpaced and quite often deliriously silly in the best way.

An entertaining alternative in this Fall season of cinematic mediocrity, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is a solidly entertaining and visually appealing film for the entire family.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic