AWFJ Women On Film – “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” – Susan Granger reviews

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Although it’s inspired by the popular 1978 children’s novel, written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett, the 3-D animated screen version is a tantalizing delight unto itself – and a cautionary tale about gluttony, obesity and genetically-altered edibles.

With the collapse of the world canned-sardine market, the tiny island fishing town of Swallow Falls has fallen on hard times. Even its Welcome sign is missing the crucial ‘F,’ reading ‘Swallow alls.’ But Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live”), a nerdy teenage inventor, is determined to make his mark, coming up with a clever contraption that turns water vapor into food: the Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator.

While his first attempts subject him to ridicule and disdain, soon everything imaginable comes drizzling down in savory smorgasbord. As Flint’s fame grows, so do the appetites of the townspeople, led by their opportunistic Mayor (voiced by Bruce Campbell) whose waistline is continually expanding. Chew and Swallow (the town’s new name) becomes an Atlantic cruise ship destination, as tourists flock in for the ice-cream sledding and Jello-O mold jumping. Inevitably, Flint’s machine goes awry and he’s called on, once again, to cope with impending catastrophe. In the meantime, he’s able to repair his relationship with his disapproving, technophobe father (voiced by James Caan), befriend the frenzied cop (voiced by Mr. T), confront a local bully (voiced by Andy Samberg) and ignite a romance with Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris), a savvy TV forecaster for the Weather News Network reporting on the meteorological phenomena.

First-time directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller stretch the thin, uneven narrative with visual puns and weather-disaster gags, while the high-spirited Sony Pictures animation remains amusing. Since they previously collaborated on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” they inveigled its star, Neil Patrick Harris, to supply the voice for Steve, Flint’s pet monkey. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” is a funny, eye-popping 8, emerging as an entertaining kidflick while serving up enlightening food-for-thought.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.