It was only a few months ago that we started taking Gus to the AMC Sensory Friendly films geared toward kids with Sensory Integration Disorder. This past weekend, the rainy weather nudged us to try something new for the kids: a 3D movie without the sound modifications. I was a little nervous, especially at $42 for the 4 of us (Remember when a movie was a cheap family outing?) that we'd last 15 minutes and would have to leave because of the noise or the images or just because we were having an 'off' day. Each of the kids represented separate concerns. Aside from the sensory issues, we worried that Gus might not be able to sit still, and that both of them would be scared, and not just by giant food flying out of the screen. Fortunately, they both sat through the film like champs and loved it!
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of a genius, misfit inventor named Flint Lockwood. His only friend is his pet monkey, Steve (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). The only person who understands Flint is his mother; to everyone else on the sardine-fishing-industry island where he lives, he's a huge nuisance with his weird inventions. Within the first 2 minutes of the movie, I was hooked. Could I possibly relate to the kid onscreen any more than I did? Not likely. Gus was completely still and focused as well. (I wonder if he felt the same connection to the main character.) After his mother (who is only in the film during the first few minutes) gives him his first real lab coat, Flint wants to help his town and gain acceptance with his inventions, the latest which transforms water into food so that the people can finally vary their sardine diets. Things start out well enough, but due to greed and overindulgence, go horribly wrong.
The film quickly went from sadly moving to side-splitting funny. It was very light on really crass humor, which I appreciated. The little inside jokes were great as well, like Flint using the old Simon electronic game as the control panel to his underground lab. The 2 leads, Bill Hader and Anna Faris, were perfect, and some of the supporting performances were excellent as well. My favorites were Mr. T. as the town cop, who was more versatile in the role than I ever would have given him credit for, and James Caan as Flint's unibrowed, laconic dad. One scene with Tim, Flint's father, the town tackle-shop owner, when he tries to send an email was especially hilarious.
There was a little bit of awkward romance between Flint and aspiring weather reporter, Sam, but not so much as to make it inappropriate for a six-year-old. There were some mildly scary images, but the one that got MM worried the most when one character experienced an anaphylactic peanut allergy and swelled up like Aunt Marge in the 3rd Harry Potter film. It upset her because both DH and his dad have peanut allergies, but she didn't wake up with any nightmares, so I think we explained the situation well enough. The noise from the action sequences was very tolerable, and the 3D effects didn't seem to bother the children at all. The only time Gus got distracted from the movie was when he got thirsty and I ran out for water and popcorn.
Overall, I'd rate Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 4 out of 4 stars. To quote Gus, "They hit a home run with that one!" Go see it!
*poster image borrowed according to fair use from Columbia Pictures