What kid wouldn't want to see a movie called Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs? The name promises such a messy good time, the biggest problem the movie faces is living up to such a gloriously goofy title.
The story centers on inventor Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), a young man whose impractical creations -- such as spray-on shoes and a device that verbalizes a monkey's thoughts -- have yet to bring him fame or fortune. As a result of his continued struggles, his father (James Caan) wants him to stop his elaborate experiments and come work in his store selling sardines, their town's chief export. With the city having fallen on hard times, the ambitious mayor (Bruce Campbell) wants to make over the town into a tourist attraction. He sees his golden opportunity when Flint's newest invention -- a machine that turns water into food -- causes meatballs to rain down from on high. Flint, basking in the glory of his first success, falls for a weather channel reporter (Anna Faris) sent to cover this highly unusual phenomenon, but he still doesn't understand why his father doesn't seem to approve of him even after he's become the town hero.
For an hour, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs revels in the kind of silliness the title suggests -- it's a thoroughly pleasant kid's film with just enough quirkiness to keep mom and dad happy. Flint's relationship with his father turns out to be the main thrust of the story; his desire to earn his dad's pride and respect drives him. The screenwriters underscore this point through the affectionate relationship between two other characters -- authoritative cop Earl Devereaux (Mr. T) and his young son, Cal. The former Clubber Lang is very funny, and rather touching, as a hard-nosed officer whose heart melts when it comes to his kid. He's so good it's kind of amazing nobody has thought to cast him in an animated film before.
Though Mr. T might be the standout in this cast, he's far from the only highlight. Hader, Faris, and Campbell all manage to put a twist on their lines, making even the occasionally obvious punch lines work. In fact, the film really only loses steam in the final 30 minutes, which is an extended action sequence where Flint and the gang attempt to retrieve his meatball-making creation from the sky. The visuals, though fine, just don't have the pizzazz that the actors' voices do.
And while little ones might not care about all that stuff, they certainly will get a kick out of the spaghetti tornado, the ice cream storm, and the cheeseburger downpour. Basically, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs succeeds because it does genuinely offer something to entertain everyone in the family.