“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” – book review

In the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett wrote about a fictitious town called ChewAndSwallow that rained food. It is quite an inventive story with wonderful illustrations by Ron Barrett.

In the town of ChewAndSwallow, the weather sometimes rained soup and juice.  And had hamburger storms. The weather came three times a day, bringing its citizen their food. There were weather forecasts informing the people of what possible food might come for their next meal. The title of the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is one such forecast.

Therefore, there were no grocery stores in the town; they were not needed. People would eat their fill and whatever is left over is saved for in-between-meal snacks. Although it was quite a chore for the sanitation department to clean up the food on the streets after each meal, things worked out well and everyone was satisfied. Until….

All was good until the weather started to turn sour. One day it rained smelly Gorgonzola cheese all day. The next day brought only overcooked broccoli. And the next day came Brussels sprouts and peanut butter with mayonnaise (yuck!)

Storms became violent with hurricanes of bread and thick pea soup fog. There was a tomato tornado with high salt and pepper winds. Food portions that dropped from the sky became bigger and bigger such that it damaged roofs. In fact, a pancake fell that covered a entire school with a down pours of maple syrup. No school for the kids that day (yeah!).

The citizens finally had to abandon the town by building boats out of bread and sailed to a land on another shore where there were normal weather with normal grocery stores. The end.

The Movie – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

The book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was the inspiration for the 2009 animated movie of the same title by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The story line of the movie is different from the book with Bill Hader playing the voice of Flint Lockwood, the protagonist.

What follows may contain movie plot spoilers.

Whereas the book did not explain why the sky rained food, the movie fills in this plot-line by creating the character Flint Lockwood, who is a boy inventor who comes up with weird inventions that does not quite turn out right. One of his invention was spray-on shoes so that you don’t have to tie shoelaces. The problem is that you can not get the shoe off. Another invention is the monkey-thought translator that enables his pet monkey Steve to talk. But it was his latest invention that inadvertently caused the sky to rain food.

Because the town of Swallow Falls is sick of eating sardines all the time, Flint creates a device called the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR for short) that would turn water into food. Whereas the book has the town as ChewAndSwallow, the movie named the town Swallow Falls and located this tiny island right underneath the “A” in “Atlantic Ocean” on the map.

Before the machine was successfully tested, a mishap caused the machine to be shot up into the sky. And on that day, the sky rained cheeseburgers (which was what Flint had set up the machine to produce as the first test run). So the machine had in fact worked.

Flint now starts taking “orders” and “requests” for particular food from the town’s residents. This includes a request from the policeman Earl. And on Earl’s son birthday, Flint made his machine rain ice-cream (making for a beautiful scene of the town).

Sam, the weather-woman reporter whom Flint likes, never made any food request. So Flint made a request for her by creating a jello-mold castle in which they jumped and played in. It was also in there that Sam confused to Flint that she too was a “nerd” but had learned to cover it up. Flint encouraged her to be her true self and so she started wearing her glasses and tying her hair into a ponytail.

The town’s greedy mayor asked Flint to make it rain food three times a day. The Mayor ate so much that he is morbidly obese and can not walk. He rides in a motorized cart. This is reminiscent of another animated film Wall-E of 2008 where the obese population of the future rides in hover chairs.

The Mayor built a new tourist attraction called “Chew and Swallow” and had sneaked into Flint’s lab to order the sky to rain a Las Vegas style All-You-Can-Eat buffet.

By ordering too much food, the machine goes into the danger “yellow zone” and bad things are started to happen. The sky dropped larger and larger portions of food. A spaghetti tornado destroys half the town. The residents has to evacuate by building boats out of toast. Near the end of the movie we see the Mayor eating his own boat.

Flint tries to shut the machine down. The Mayor tries to stop Flint by throwing a radish at Flint. It missed Flint but broke the communication device to the machine in the sky. Now there is no way to tell the machine in the sky to stop.

Flint feels so bad that he ruined everything that he felt like trash and threw himself into a trashcan along with all his other previous useless inventions. Flint’s father found him there and gave handed him Flint’s white lab coat. Flint pulled himself up and was now determined to save the world by shutting down the machine for good. He built a flying car and the crew consisting of Flint, Sam, Steve the monkey, Sam’s cameraman, and Brent flew up to the machine which was now surrounded by a giant meatball. With some adventures up there, Flint finally manages to shut the machine down by spraying his spray-on-shoe onto the machines output nozzle sealing it forever.

The movie has some good laughs as well as well-developed plot-lines. We see Flint’s romantic relationship with Sam. We see Flint’s strained relationship with his father. And we see Flint’s relationship with himself in terms of his self-esteem.  We also see what happens when one gets too greedy and eats too much.

Wii Video Game

With the release of the movie, videos games with the same name followed — where the player can control Flint. Game available for the Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, and PC.