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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


A character named Flint Lockwood, voiced by Bill Hader, is seen in the animated movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs."
A whimsical animated fantasy that warns against overindulgence and extols the virtues of persistence and ingenuity, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (Columbia) is uniquely suited to watching in 3-D. Its abundance of bright, eye-popping effects makes donning those cumbersome glasses worthwhile, and the overall message is salubrious enough to recommend seeing it in conventional theaters as well.

Co-writers and directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord lay out a smorgasbord of dazzling visuals that proves entertaining if not always appetizing. Because the colorful picture serves as a reminder that gluttony is a cardinal sin, moviegoers would be well advised to go easy at the concession stand before taking their seats.

Loosely based on the children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett, first published in 1978, the plot centers on a young inventor named Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader of "Saturday Night Live") who has been ridiculed his entire life for creating numerous odd and unworkable devices. His fortunes change one day when he fashions a machine that makes food fall from the sky.

His handiwork, albeit partly accidental, gives the citizens of his economically depressed hometown of Swallow Falls, located on a remote Atlantic island, a break from their steady diet of sardines. The first storm of cheeseburgers is merely the beginning.

Flint finds a kindred spirit in rookie weather reporter Sam Sparks (voice of Anna Faris), assigned to cover the bizarre climactic phenomenon for a national television network. Sam has chosen to conceal her formidable intellect in order to get ahead professionally. But Flint encourages her to be herself, even giving her a makeover that turns her back into a nerd.

Their date inside a mountain of gelatin is one of the movie's highlights, and a relatively peaceful interlude before conditions spiral out of control.

Citizens become omnivorous, feasting on sirloin steaks, ice cream and anything else they feel like ordering up from Flint. The rapacious mayor seeks to capitalize on the situation by turning the town -- renamed Chewandswallow -- into a tourist mecca. He becomes obese in the process.

Eventually, Flint's machine goes haywire and starts supersizing food, resulting in a gigantic maelstrom that spews spaghetti and meatballs in red sauce. Supported by their respective sidekicks -- a pet monkey and a multitalented cameraman -- Flint and Sam must engage in derring-do if they hope to save the world. Amid the action, Flint's relationship with his old-fashioned father (voice of James Caan) is revived.

It's disappointing that, while the problem of what do with the excess food arises, there's never any mention of using the surplus to feed the poor. On a more positive thematic note, there is an implicit lesson about the dangers of tampering with nature and an over-dependence on science.

Even so, Flint's character may boost respect for responsible scientific learning among young people and foster the spirit of invention. Above all, one hopes this cautionary tale could promote healthier eating habits.

The film contains considerable cartoon violence, some rude expressions, a scatological reference and a few moderately scary action sequences. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

John McCarthy is a guest reviewer for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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