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 (and you’re going to LOVE the forthcoming Up, by the way) 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 nothing. 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 3D is superb, the visuals are hugely impressive – there are points you’ll believe you’re in a real town square – 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. The best kids' movie for a very, very long time.