Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is very good indeed, so credit where credit is due. Step forward Pixar. What? Yes, I know. Pixar had nowt to do with this food-themed family tale, but their influence is sort of everywhere.
Why? Because the sheer quality of Pixar’s output has forced every other studio to go back to the drawing b... er, software... and raise their game. The result is even more well-written, slick-as-a-sealion animated tales and that can only be a good thing. In short, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs is the best animated feature Pixar didn’t make.
Based on an apparently famous children’s book – nope, me neither, guess it’s an American thing – it’s the story of Flint Lockwood (Hader), small-town inventor but big-time dreamer. Since childhood, Flint’s been trying to build his landmark, legend-building idea. And since childhood, he’s been less than successful, as his impossible-to-remove spray-on shoes and the flocks of ratbirds testify. However, with his town’s fish canning industry dying, Flint has a plan: a device that can create food from water. With the help of some illegally obtained electricity, the device is a hit and Flint makes it rain food three times a day, generating interest from weathergirl Sam Sparks (Faris) and, particularly, the mayor (Campbell), who sees this menu-from-the-sky as a chance to put the town on the map. However, as the town’s requests for food gets ever more elaborate, the machine starts to overload and the food starts to mutate to dangerous and unpredictable sizes: would you like ketchup with your extinction level event?
And it’s delightful. The visuals are hugely impressive, while the plot allows for some well-handled moralising on the perils of greed and waste, but never gets preachy thanks to a delightfully subtle and witty script. Best of all, every character is fully fleshed, from the “leads” – Sam, for example, is supremely intelligent but hides her love of science behind the expected perky weathergirl exterior – through to the minor characters, such as the mayor, Flint’s stoical father (Caan) and, best of all, Mr T as Earl, the local, highly enthusiastic policeman. This is the best kids' movie for a very, very long time.
EXTRAS **** The combi-pack - where you get a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy of the film - is become more popular with the studios, which in our book is a pretty good thing. So yes, we have a combi-pack here. What we don't have is a 3D film, which Cloudy was at the cinema; this here is a purely 2D release. But don't fret. If you really loved this film in 3D, the good news is that Sony is releasing a 3D Blu-ray player and range of televisions this year, and the first films to be released for the new format will be this on. But while you're waiting for that, you can check out the decent range of extras on this release. First up is a pretty funny audio commentary with star Hader and writer/directors Lord and Miller. Then there are two featurettes, one on the making of the film (A Recipe for Success) and another on the voice casting and recording (Key Ingredients); a couple of deleted scenes; a couple of pre-animated versions of scenes; a Progression Reels feature that shows the evolution from concept to final renderings of a couple of scenes; the music video Raining Sunshine by Miranda Cosgrove; two games - Flint's Food Fight, in which you fly Flint's plane Space Invaders-style to shoot at the food that's bombarding the town, and an Interactive Splat Button, which allows you to throw food at the screen (then wipe it off) while you watch the movie ... which should keep kids entertained for hours; and some trailers.