Ever since Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) was a boy he wanted to be an inventor, but not just any kind of inventor, a great inventor. His first achievement as a child was to devise spray-on shoes, but as his sneering classmates pointed out, there was a flaw in his thinking as there was no way he could take them off. Indeed, years later he was still wearing them, having invented such things as a monkey thought translator for his pet Steve and a remote control television that walks to you so you can change channels, but nothing he creates takes off as a success. He still has high hopes for a machine that turns water to food, however...
One thing though, how does Flint trim his toenails? While you ponder that you can also enjoy a genuine pleasure, a non-Pixar computer animated film that actually lived up to their standards, as opposed to any number of lazy funny animals rivals that were around at the time. Based on the children's book by Judi and Ron Barrett, it displayed a wealth of imaginative developments and some truly hilarious jokes, but it was not simply a run of gags about food falling from the sky, as it could easily have been, there was an intelligence behind the crazy plotting that enriched what could have gone either to the silly, brainless side or to the opposite, the finger-wagging, don't stuff your face with junk food lesson.
Certainly there's elements of both, but the writer and director team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller struck a happy medium, and you could take away a message about eating sensibly as much as you could roll around laughing at the fresh lunacies offered up for your delectation. And thankfully there was nothing ill-tempered about any of it, as every character is treated with the same sense of humour, even the Mayor (Bruce Campbell) who is set up as the apparent villain, although he's really a buffoon who isn't thinking straight due to his greed for the comestibles showering the island town of Swallow Falls that Flint lives in. He hopes to change their fortunes that have suffered since their staple industry of sardines has fallen out of favour, but it's not an exaggeration to say he goes too far.
At the heart of this is a small story of a boy who wanted to make his dad proud, despite a run of failures that lead him to work in the family fishing tackle shop. Mr Lockwood (James Caan) is marvellously animated with a face consisting mainly of eyebrows and moustache, and it's simultaneously funny and touching that Flint lets him down so publicly and so often. But after a near-calamitous ruining of the town's new tourist attraction, he gets his machine up into the sky and before you know it burgers are dropping on the area - something different for them to eat at last. Thanks to the presence of budding weathergirl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris) the event gets huge coverage, and it looks as of prosperous times have finally arrived.
So intent on being original are the filmmakers that they not only manufacture every surreal image they can from their premise, they like to subvert the clichés that many lesser efforts would embrace. So when Flint and Sam inevitably fall for each other, it's because she has put on her glasses and tied her hair in a ponytail, the opposite of the "Why, Miss Jones, you're beautiful!" chestnut as they get in touch with their inner nerds - well, maybe not so much inner in the case of Flint. Lord and Miller know the value of a great voice cast, and those actors don't let them down, with Mr. T standing out amongst some excellent work as the father who contrasts with the Lockwoods in that his policeman dotes over his son unashamedly, while getting on Flint's case about the chaos he has a habit of conjuring up. To let us know that getting more food than you know what to do with is a bad thing, the gift of plenty turns against the townsfolk, but don't worry, this never gets heavy, and its essential sweetness is the icing on the cake. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh, along with soundtrack choices from Lesley Gore, Public Enemy and Alan Parsons (!).