It's a little crazy looking back at Phil Lord and Chris Miller's directorial debut. Before "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" came out, they were pretty much known as the guys who created the cult animated show "Clone High". Now, they're considered some of the biggest directors working today and have gone on to work on some of the biggest animated movies this decade. This is why I went back to "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" with a little nervousness. I remember liking it as a child, but I had to wonder if the movie was as good as I remembered. Thankfully, it was not only as good as I remembered, but it was also better. This was a simply hilarious film that showed both the early promise of Lord and Miller and the creative potential of Sony Pictures Animation. It still is a lot of fun ten years later.
In the island town of Swallow Falls, a young inventor named Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is trying to impress the town as well as his father Tim (James Caan) with his numerous inventions. None of them seem to work though, but Flint has a new invention he hopes can save the town based mainly around sardines. He invents a machine that turns water into food, though a haywire incident causes the machine to launch into the sky. Yet miraculously, it starts to rain food from the sky proving that his invention does work. Realizing the potential of the machine, the mayor of Swallow Falls (Bruce Campbell) enlists Flint and weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Farris) to use the machine's capabilities to help capture media attention which will attract tourists to the city. Though this soon leads to disaster as the machine begins to go over capacity and starts making disastrous food storms and it's up to Flint to stop it.
Looking back at this film all these years later, I'm amazed at how good it was for an animated directorial debut. It's far from Lord and Miller's strongest work, but it still The story definitely isn't the strong point of the movie, but it still is pretty fun overall. It does take the zaniness of the children's book written by Judi and Ron Barrett and put a creative spin to it. It's also a good example of that you don't need to always follow the book to make a good movie although the animation does at times mirror the original illustrations which I found a nice touch. Lord and Miller claimed they were inspired by disaster movies while making this film and it shows. This is a fun example of how to do it correctly. There were some good themes in this movie though, particularly the relationship between Flint and Tim. It's clear the two have always never exactly seen eye to eye and that their relationship hasn't been the strongest and I felt it was handled exceptionally well. As far as the animation goes, it still looks colorful and zany. The character designs did give me a "Clone High" vibe and I feel this world looked a lot like the world of the show brought to life through CGI. It's very caricatured and feels straight out of a cartoon. The entire movie does feel like a ninety-minute cartoon which I found enjoyable. It's also very fast-paced which works well for the comedy of the movie which I'll get to in a bit. The characters are the real highlight of the movie. They have some interesting quirks to them as well as great voice talents to sell them. Flint is a very passionate and likable protagonist, Sam is a very supportive and smart friend to help, and even Tim had some funny lines to boost from James Caan and wasn't a total stick in the mud. Even Flint's monkey sidekick Steve (Neil Patrick Harris) was an enjoyable highlight and the devilish mayor seemed like a good villain to the film. There is also some fantastic comedy in this film. Most of the jokes are zany and a dozen a minute and they hit some big laughs. I was often laughing a lot at some of the insanity that was happening in the film. With that said though, this movie does have some problems that hold it back at times. The film does have some opening narration from Flint that I do feel could've been removed at times since it felt unnecessary since the animation was showing what he was explaining. Also, the character of Brent (Andy Samberg) should've been cut entirely. This character got under my skin and also was not useful to the story in any aspect. He was just annoying overall. Andy Samberg is usually pretty funny, but this film did not use his talents wisely. He just got annoying and should've been cut from the film altogether.
Looking back, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is a film that has held up well over the years. The story is silly and hilarious, the animation is fast-paced and energetic, and the characters were all extremely memorable. I had a fun time with this film and it's crazy seeing the projects that Phil Lord and Chris Miller went onto after this film. I hope that they'll continue to make good movies like this because it is a reminder that anyone can make any crazy idea work.