Starring: Bill Hader, Anna Faris and James Caan
Directed by: Phil Lord (debut) and Chris Miller (debut)
Written by: Phil Lord (“Extreme Movie”) and Chris Miller (“Extreme Movie”)

We might not get as hungry as we would if we were watching “Julie & Julia” or any number of culinary shows on the Food Network, but the new film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is an amusing romp through the refrigerator that proves Pixar isn’t the only animation studio cooking up winners.

While it’s going to be hard to one-up Pixar’s “Up” as this year’s best animation, “Meatballs” gets as close to doing it than any other computer-generated family film has in the last nine months. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Judi and Ron Barrett, the story follows Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader), small-town aspiring inventor whose weird contraptions aren’t what someone would consider ingenious (spray-on shoes sound nifty if there were a way to take them off your feet).

With his father (James Caan) gently encouraging him to give up on his childhood dream and help him work at their family-owed bait and tackle shop instead, Flint’s future as an inventor rides on whether or not he can get his newest gadget – a machine that morphs water into food – to work properly without creating a catastrophe.

But when his experiment is accidentally launched into sky and causes it to start raining cheeseburgers, cherry pie, and a whole bunch of other fatty foods (can’t a guy get some lettuce wraps around here?), the once-economically unfortunate town sees Flint’s mistake as an opportunity to make money on “food tourism.”

However, when the machine goes haywire and stars pouring down food in massive proportions, Flint and his pet monkey (he’s strapped into a translation device like the dogs in “Up” and blurts out random words) must figure a way to stop the “techno food” from falling before the weather gets out of control (spaghetti tornadoes whooshing by in 3-D are such a delight!).

After seeing “Meatballs,” parents may want to keep a closer eye at the dinner table for those children who want to reenact the food showers, but that shouldn’t stop them from spending an afternoon savoring this visually scrumptious CG feature from Sony Pictures Animation. Just remember that saying “clear your plate” might mean something completely different once out of the theater.

Filled with wackiness and witty jokes, “Meatballs” is a riot that doesn’t pander to kids or over-think its humor for adults in the audience. The characters – including Anna Faris as a perky weather girl and Mr. T as a burly lawman – are written with a sharpness that is difficult to capture in a film with essentially two demographics. But where other animations have tilted in favor of one over the other, “Meatballs” serves up a nice balanced meal everyone will enjoy – even if the chicken drumsticks are as big as Mack trucks.

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