September 18, 2009 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' -- GRADE: B+

Delicious 'Meatballs': An animated treat the whole family can enjoy

Characters voiced by Anna Faris and Bill Hader go on a journey to stave off a food storm in "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," adapted from the book by Ron and Judi Barrett. (Sony Pictures)

Food has never been funnier than it is in the spirited, animated family film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."

The fact that the food in question is raining down from the sky has a lot to do with the laughter, of course. But this movie is hilarious even when it's not hailing macaroni and cheese.

Based on a popular children's book -- and the source material here is pretty darn strong -- the film is directed and adapted for the screen by the unlikely team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, best known (if known at all) for "Extreme Movie."

What they're doing working with a 3-D animated film is anybody's guess, but it sure works. And a great part of why it works -- beyond the sheer unpretentious cartoony fun of the whole thing -- is the participation of a mix of hip young comics and wily veterans (Andy Samberg, James Caan, Benjamin Bratt, Will Forte, Bruce Campbell) doing the voice work.

Any time you get Mr. T and Anna Faris in the same flick you know things are going to be interesting.

The story centers on Flint Lockwood ("Saturday Night Live" star Bill Hader). A young would-be inventor living on an obscure island in the Atlantic that has seen its sardine-driven economy dry up (because suddenly everyone realized sardines are gross). Flint gets the idea one day to try to transform water into food.

This experiment gets out of hand and his invention rockets off into the sky. Where it begins drawing in the moisture from clouds and transforming it into... cheeseburgers. Steaks. Ice Cream. Candy. Whatever Flint remotely programs into his invention comes raining down from the sky onto the island.

When a cable weather channel gets a hint of this it sends unseasoned reporter Sam Sparks (the breathy Faris, "Scary Movie") to the scene. Once there she realizes she's found the biggest weather story of all time. She and lonely guy Flint bond over a love for Jell-O while the local populace, eating up the gifts from the sky, begins gaining a great deal of weight.

And this portends the dark side of free hams from the sky. Eventually, Flint's invention gets out of control, as do the citizens of a town with too much food.

As outrageous as the storyline is, it's really only half the fun here. While this would seem to be a movie any kid would love, parents will also find a bunch of witty social criticism going on as the film casts a skewed eye at the media, advertising, political figures, sexism and much more. It's all very funny, but the humor has some nice edges.

The sole bone to pick is that the movie ends with your typical heroic adventure redemption sequence. Well, not typical; a guy running around in the body of a roast chicken is not typical. Still, it's a bit expected in terms of story.

Otherwise, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" is a grand family feast of a film -- great-looking, smart and laugh-aloud funny a lot of the time. Chances are you'll eat it up.

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Bill Hader and Anna Faris provide the voices of the inventor and the ... (Columbia Pictures)
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