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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

If you're born in the 1970s or have children who were, chances are you've imagined rain made of orange juice or storms of burgers falling from the sky. That would be because you love the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” It's about a town where the weather is literally delicious.

Today, more than 30 years after the book was published, a film version comes out in what the ads are calling mothering watering 3D. As our critic Bob Mondello tells us, the movie goes beyond the scope of the book.

BOB MONDELLO: Wondering how the town of Swallow Falls got to be a place where it rains soup and snows mashed potatoes? Well, Judi and Ron Barrett didn't tell you in the book, but it turns out an inventor named Flint Lockwood is responsible. When Flint was a little boy, he invented lots of things that unfortunately didn't work quite the way he'd hoped.

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Mr. BILL HADER (Actor): (As Flint Lockwood) Remote control television.

MONDELLO: Remote uncontrolled is more like it. He gave the TV legs and it wandered out the door.

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Mr. HADER: (As Flint Lockwood) Monkey thought translator. (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #1: Hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry.

MONDELLO: Monkey, see, don't have many thoughts. And spray on shoes don't come off. And…

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Mr. HADER: (As Flint Lockwood) Rat (unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman: Hey, what's going on little guy?

MONDELLO: Well, that's just not a good idea. Still a machine that turns water into food, that could have possibilities, if only the machine hadn't gotten accidentally shot into the stratosphere before Flint could figure out if it worked, nearly knocked over a cute weather forecaster too on her very first broadcast.

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Ms. ANNA FARIS (Actor): (As Sam Sparks) You hit me a rocket.

Mr. HADER: (As Flint Lockwood) You kicked me in the face.

Ms. FARIS: (As Sam Sparks) I said I was sorry.

MONDELLO: The water into food machine made Flint a laughing stock even in the eyes of his father when it disappeared into a cloud. But that cloud, he realizes, when a pickle falls from the sky was wet.

(Soundbite of noise)

MONDELLO: They look up to see other foods falling, too - cheese, buns.

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Mr. HADER: (As Flint) That could only be…

MONDELLO: It's raining cheese burgers. The machine works. And once Flint learns to control it, he can take special requests: soup to nuts, which makes him pretty popular and doesn't hurt the weather forecaster's career either.

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Ms. FARIS: (As Sam Sparks) Well, those cheeseburgers were only the beginning because the breakfast system is on its way to Swallow Falls. My forecast: sunny side up.

MONDELLO: She's fond of puns and starts talking about meteor showers and that's just the taste, sorry, of the script's wit. Also delicious is the way that filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller incorporate visual jokes - the lamp Flint's built in his backyard looks downright grown up until you see its airlock is a shower curtain and its instruments repurposed toys. There's a veritable feast of food metaphors - Jell-O as trampoline, a twisting tornado of spaghetti and the animators have the good sense to realize that if it were ever to snow ice cream…

(Soundbite of screaming)

MONDELLO: …kids would almost certainly make snow angels lying face down.

(Soundbite of movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”)

Unidentified Man #2: Strawberry's my favorite.

MONDELLO: All this could easily turn particularly sweet and (unintelligible). So, it's good that the film brings some real world crunch to the story. Ethnic characters whose presence makes a point, weather girl, smart enough to hate being considered eye-candy. And a clear message about the downside of a society where food is over-abundant.

Like most mainstream pictures these days, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” ends with a big action sequence, turning into Raiders of the Lost Arby's when you wish it would serve up something less conventional. But by that time, the filmmakers have also served up a little food for thought, along with a lots of laughs.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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