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Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

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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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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