Friday, September 25, 2009

Meatballs: 100% Grade A fun

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"
Four stars

By Michèle De Meglio

Fans of Judi and Ron Barrett’s beloved children’s book “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” squealed with delight when a film of the same name hit the big screen in all of its 3-D animation glory. I was no exception.

In the interest of full disclosure, “Meatballs” was my favorite book as a kid. The idea of tasty doughnuts, bacon and eggs, and hot dogs falling from the sky was enough to mesmerize my pint-sized self, as well as the millions upon millions of folks who read the book since its first printing in 1978. Years later, the pages still seem magical to me.

While the film is based on the classic story, the silver screen version of “Meatballs” has a completely different plot and cast of characters than the book.

The precocious kids and their lovable grandpa are replaced with scientist-in-training Flint Lockwood, weather girl Sam Sparks, a very hungry monkey named Steve, and Mr. T. Yep, Mr. “A-Team” is back — and as awesome as ever.

In spite of the changes, the film is smart, fresh and entertaining and would appease any purist.

There are even spots where the book’s most memorable moments come to life. It was an absolute treat to see the salt and pepper wind and the makeshift sailboats that the townspeople quickly create using stale pizza slices and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

But my favorite moment had to be when those first greasy cheeseburgers fell from the sky. I nearly shed a tear.

“Meatballs” is geared toward children but will obviously appeal to the book’s faithful fans, as well as any adult who is a child at heart.

C’mon, there’s nothing more gleefully enjoyable than seeing a pancake the size of the flying saucer in “District 9” crush an elementary school. Or wishing that you were bouncing around in a pineapple JELL-O mold as tall as the Empire State Building. Better yet, who doesn’t want to see a feisty monkey rip out the heart of a naughty gummy bear and eat it? That’s comedy, people!

Do yourself a favor — run to the theater to see “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” And buy the book. As well as the sequel “Pickles to Pittsburgh,” which really needs to be made into a movie. Hey, I said I was a fan.

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” Rated PG for brief mild language. Runtime 90 minutes. Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Starring Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Mr. T, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Will Forte and Lauren Graham.


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