The 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' Argument For Seeing Great Kids' Movies : Monkey See Never forget that a smart adult will sometimes take in a kids' movie for its own sake — Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, for instance.
NPR logo The 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' Argument For Seeing Great Kids' Movies

The 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' Argument For Seeing Great Kids' Movies

Flint Lockwood, voiced by Bill Hader, grabs for a falling cheeseburger in the absolutely delightful Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. Sony Pictures Animation hide caption

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Sony Pictures Animation

I didn't manage to motivate myself to the theater for the blockbuster Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs until this weekend, when friends with kids invited me along on a family outing. Had that not happened, I might have missed one of the most visually interesting and genuinely funny comedies I've seen in a long time.

It made me wonder: Adults read Harry Potter books and Twilight, both of which are nominally aimed at young adults (at the oldest). Why doesn't it feel as likely that they'll go to purported kids' movies?

Kids, adults, and easy marks, after the jump.

I'm not talking about WALL-E and Up, the highbrow Pixar offerings that seem like possible Best Picture contenders. I'm talking about movies exactly like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, which, I will insist from this point forward, is one of the funniest comedies of the year so far. I laughed and laughed and laughed, which is a lot more than I can say for The Ugly Truth or Bride Wars or — great glorious stinkbombs — Year One.

There are lots and lots of delicious visual jokes, including a sequence that simply shows different characters staring up at the sky at the first instance of "food weather." It begins as chuckle-worthy, becomes a giggle bomb, and grows into a masterpiece of timing that draws guffaws without a wisecrack, a sound effect, or anything colliding with the rear end of anything else, which I find to be the most overused of kids'-movie cliches at this point.

There's not a lot to the story, as is the case with lots of comedies (it's true of The Hangover, too), but there are so many jokes crammed so close together that if one doesn't tickle you, the next one will. In that way, it's an heir to both Airplane! and The Simpsons, in that there seems to be such a surplus of funny ideas that they're almost leaking out around the edges of the script.

There's goofy humor, there's observant humor, there's meta-humor about movies (kids won't notice the newscaster who points out that a natural disaster happens to be hitting all the world's major landmarks, but adults will), and there's a little monkey, voiced by Neil Patrick Harris, who, for some reason, is absolutely hilarious even though he mostly just says, "Steve."

Everyone credits kids' entertainment that also entertains adults on their own level — witness some of the Sesame Street parodies that are not aimed at kids at all — but sometimes, a movie aimed at kids can work on adults for mostly the same reasons it works on kids. My guess is that the eight- and five-year-olds I saw the movie with were giggling at most of the same things I was, and after the movie, when we talked about our favorite parts, there was a lot of commonality.

It was a great reminder that sometimes, it's a good idea to take yourself to a kids' movie just for yourself, even if you don't have kids, and even if it isn't a parable about environmentalism or a touching story about love and aging. It's a very rare movie that I would actually recommend to almost anyone between birth and death, but that's where I'd put this one.