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At The Movies: Cloudy with a Chance of … Cliches:

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is another example of a great book being warped and twisted into a really awful film. This was the case, unfortunately, with Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, it was the case with The Cat in the Hat, alas, and it is the case with this simple but imaginative children’s book.

The 3-D animated feature of Cloudy follows the adventures of a young, nerdy scientist (voiced by Bill Hader). He wants to invent things. He invents because he can’t stop himself and, like Thomas Edison said, there is no such thing as failure when you learn from your mistakes.

The townspeople have come to a crossroads where their reliable sardines are no longer selling. Only Flint, the kooky and outcast inventor can save them with his food/weather machine. He invents something that turns clouds into any food he programs and it rains down on the hungry people below. This phenom occurs at the very moment Flint meets his romantic ideal, a weather girl (voiced by Anna Faris).

The first thing to come down are cheeseburgers. Flop, one goes to the ground. Flop, there goes another one. They pick them up and eat them and boy do they taste good. It starts a frenzy in the town that reaches a fever pitch when Flint programs things like candy and ice cream, pancakes with syrup, hot dogs! It rains down continually and everyone enjoys the free food.

But they were all so busy appreciating the invention that they didn’t stop to contemplate whether or not people need such a thing. No, people in America surely don’t need such a thing. It would do nothing but harm to us, turn us into obese eating machines, not unlike the humans in Pixar’s far superior Wall-E.

It is only a matter of time before the characters on screen stubbornly come to the truth: the food machine should be stopped (no one ever really brings up the fact that it could help starving people in Africa or India — isn’t that just like Americans only to think of themselves?)

Despite the environmental and conscientious message that’s tacked on, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is exhausting to sit through. There isn’t a moment in the film that isn’t utterly predictable. Of course the boy gets the girl, of course every fringe character will have his or her moment in the spotlight. It is as formulaic as it gets. Since it opened at number one this past weekend, it’s doubtful anyone in Hollywood will get the message that the film could use an inventor of its own.

What is it about children’s movies that makes it okay to lower standards? It’s probably more to do with desperate parents than it is anything else; they need something to do on the weekends and they know the formula mostly works.

As for the rest of us, we’ll have to wait for Pixar to come out with another one.

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