Here’s a case where screenwriters have taken extreme liberty with source material, but if reviews and buzz are any indication, the 3-D animated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs appears to have succeeded.
Originally published in 1978, the children’s book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs featured a grandfather telling his grandchildren a story about a town where there is weather three times a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. As you might imagine, all of this weather comes in the form of food. Weather can be a tricky thing, though, and just like in the real world, the inhabitants of the town experience some “severe” weather that causes havoc – particularly since the massive events have food items at their center (i.e. a tomato sauce tornado).
The movie takes things a step further. At the center of the story is an inventor named Flint Lockwood, a guy who creates stuff that is either unwanted or simply doesn’t work. When his town begins to struggle, with the denizens eating nothing but sardines, he invents a machine that converts water into food – and effectively changes the weather so that it produces, well, produce. Hunger is eliminated, but soon Lockwood’s machine goes rogue and starts to create similar severe weather events to those seen in the book. Flint must stop the machine, and save the world in the process.
In both cases, the story is simple. A lot of people who remember loving the book as children have expressed dismay that the film is stretching the premise, but there’s reason for hope. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. You may not know the names. Actually, you probably don’t know their masterpiece of a TV series, either. Clone High was an animated show that aired on MTV for one short season in 2002-2003. The show was genius. Famous historical figures have been cloned, and we pop in on the high school versions of characters like Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra and John F. Kennedy. It was subversive and hilarious, and sadly is out of print.
Because I loved that show so well, I’m pretty excited about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. As I write this, it’s 87% Fresh at RottenTomatoes, which means that it is the beneficiary of plenty of positive reviews. One critics comment that it’s “Laughing-my-ass-off, it’s-raining-steak-and-gumballs, I-want-Steve-the-monkey-for-my-very-own fun” has me totally excited to see the film.
Sure, it might be an adaptation in concept only, but someone out there had to come up with the concept that set things in motion.