I was a little too old for picture books when Judi Barrett’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was first published in 1978 (though I’ve since encountered it during my own child’s storytimes, and am particularly fond of Ron Barrett’s whimsical illustrations). Not having any sentimental attachment to the original work made it easy for me to enjoy the animated film adaptation, released in theaters late last summer (and now out on DVD).
Gone is the framing device of the original story, which has a grandfather spinning a tall tale during his grandkids’ mealtime about a town where food falls from the sky for no apparent reason. In the movie version, a young inventor devises a machine that can turn water into food, which he sends into the clouds above his depressed fishing community so it can enjoy more culinary choices than the steady stream of sardines it’s used to consuming. Once the tasty treats start falling, the former failed scientist becomes a local celebrity... until things go terribly wrong, and disaster borne of mad science must be averted.
The pace of the film is frantic - which can’t be said of the book - but it’s by no means a mean-spirited film, so I’d recommend it to parents who don’t mind getting the kids revved up with high-speed screen antics. Parents shouldn’t be bored, either – there’s some sly satire thrown in the mix, and I especially enjoyed spotting all the ‘70’s and ‘80’s electronics cast-offs the hapless hero uses in his makeshift laboratory. Regardless of its faithfulness to the source material, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is still a satisfying movie treat.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs