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Movie Mom

When things go very, very wrong in this movie, as they so often do, we get to see a series of television news broadcasts from around the world showing the destruction of various iconic monuments, as we so often do. And then something different happens. One of the newscasters points out that this particular un-natural disaster seems inexplicably and improbably primarily directed at national landmarks. So this is a movie with a sense of humor about itself and its audience.

As long as you don’t expect it to have much to do with the story or illustrations in the classic book by Judi and Ron Barrett, you can settle in for an entertaining and, yes, delicious family film. In the book, instead of rain and snow, food falls from the sky in the town of Chew and Swallow. In this movie, we get to see how that came to be.

It begins, as so many stories for children begin, with a kid who feels like an outsider. Flint Lockwood (as an adult the voice of Bill Hader of “Saturday Night Live”) is a curious kid who likes to invent things but does not always think things through. His spray-on shoes are so indescructable they never come off. His gadget to allow Steve the Monkey to speak works perfectly well; it’s just that Steve doesn’t say much worth hearing. His mom believes in him, but after she dies he just has his dad, all eyebrows and mustache (and voice of James Caan) thinks he should just give it up and come to work with him in his sardine shop.

Sardines are the sole product of Flint’s town, called Swallow Falls. But then, disaster happens. Everyone figures out that sardines are yucky. And so the town falls on hard times. Can one of Flint’s inventions save the day?

Well, not really. An invention to turn water into food goes awry when it is shot into the air and the next thing the town knows, what once was rain, snow, fog, and hail is now pancakes, sushi, BLTs, and jellybeans. The mayor (voice of B-movie star Bruce Campbell) sees this as a chance to revitalize the town’s economy through tourism. And as a chance to eat a lot of food and get very fat. The former mascot of the town’s previous sardine industry, the now-grown “Baby” Brent (voice of SNL’s Andy Samberg) sees this as a threat to his popularity. And a junior employee at the Weather Channel who wants to be a newscaster (Anna Feris as Sam Sparks) thinks she has to hide her brains and curiosity to get people to like her and sees this as her chance to show what she can do.

That is a lot to sort out, not to mention a fabulous mansion made of Jell-O and some action sequences involving space travel and a peanut allergy. But it is all handled well without getting frantic or losing its sense of fun. This is a fresh and clever film, with both wit and heart, a family delight, more fun than a hailstorm of jellybeans followed by pizza flurries.

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