PLOT: A klutzy inventor discovers a way to create storms of food.
BOTTOM LINE: Clever and zippy, with some nutritional value hidden in the fun.
CAST: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell
Meals fell from the sky in the 1978 children's book "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," a whimsical fantasy that doubled as a cautionary tale about portion control. It didn't stop America's obesity epidemic, but there's hope: Not long after Pixar's "WALL-E" envisioned a future of globular humans raised on fast food and high-fructose soda, Sony's computer-animated version of "Meatballs" draws another satiric picture of gluttony.
In Swallow Falls, whose sardine-based economy has hit a recession, teenage science geek Flint Lockwood (amiably voiced by Bill Hader) devises a bailout plan: a rocket-boosted pod that turns cloud-moisture into any type of food you like. For once, his crazy invention works, creating cheeseburger rain, ice-cream flurries and steak showers, all of which make this film's 3-D and Imax versions worth finding.
Flint's conservative father (a lovably gruff James Caan) predicts disaster, but the town's ambitious mayor (Bruce Campbell) sees gastro-tourism potential. Even as the machine goes into overdrive, producing meteoric meatballs and frighteningly long hot dogs, the mayor pushes for more.
Writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose television credits include CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," pack each scene with jokes big and small, and the voice cast shines: Mr. T stars as an overzealous cop (complete with blue short shorts), Neil Patrick Harris gives voice to a frenetic monkey, and Andy Samberg plays a former sardine poster boy who has become an overgrown Gerber baby.
The smartest addition to the book, though, is weathergirl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), a perky blonde who plays dumb. Thanks to Flint, she discovers that intelligence can be attractive. That makes two valuable lessons, more than the USRDA in most kids' films.