Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

18 September 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (based loosely on a book by the same title) is a libertarian and delightful children’s movie about a young inventor who is manipulated by a politician, but who, in the end, forges his own path and saves the day.

Although ostensibly a children’s movie, parents should have little difficulty also enjoying the story.

The story’s hero is a young inventor named Flint Lockwood, voiced by Bill Hader.  The character boldly uses his mind to create inventions that few would even think to work on, and although the inventions rarely work precisely as he had imagined, they are nonetheless rather remarkable.  His greatest invention is one that can literally change the structure of atoms, thereby turning water into food.

The main villain of the film is a politician.  From the very beginning, we see Mayor Shelbourne (voiced by the great Bruce Campbell) as a shady, untrustworthy scoundrel.  We learn rather quickly that this politician has plundered an exorbitant sum of money.  He has wasted all this money on a silly public works project intended to increase tourism.  Called Sardine Land, it is doomed to fail, of course.

The movie even depicts a government employee named Earl Devereaux and voiced by Mr. T brutalising an innocent jaywalker.  The jaywalker wasn’t endangering anyone at the time, yet the government employee attacks him mercilessly.  Unfortunately, while this government employee does become more sedated throughout the course of the film, he never truly learns his lesson and quits his job.

Importantly, when it is discovered that Flint has invented the machine that turns water into food, which he calls Flint Lockwood’s Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (or “Fldsmdfr” for short), the politician sweet talks Flint into using the machine three times a day, thus allowing food to rain from the sky for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We also learn that if the machine is used too frequently, the food it creates will be mutated; but the politician, being solely concerned with the short run, does not care about long-term consequences.

Two important themes I find in the film can be summed up with the maxims be yourself and question authority.  Flint’s main love interest, Sam Sparks (voiced by Anna Faris), learns this first lesson in a mansion made of Jell-O.  Growing up, she had been afraid to be herself, a bright young girl, because peer pressure made her feel like an outcast.  She would often be made fun of for being so intelligent.  But Flint assures her that she shouldn’t be afraid to just be who she is.

The theme concerned with questioning authority comes with the problems caused by the politician.  The politician initially corrupts the thinking of the inventor, Flint, which seems to me a perfect allegory of how politics perverts everything it touches.  This politician had encouraged Flint to ignore reason and think only of the present, without regard to the consequences of his actions.  The greedy politician is overjoyed to see bigger and bigger food falling, and is not the least bit concerned about science or the mutations occurring to the falling foodstuff.  Finally, Flint takes a stand against political insanity and decides to shut off the machine.  Unfortunately, at this point, the politician has already initiated what we could call “foodpocalypse.”  Thus, it remains up to our hero and his friends to save the day.

View the Film’s Official Website Here