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Things Only Adults Notice In Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

2009's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs centers around aspiring scientist Flint Lockwood (played perfectly by funnyman Bill Hader), who lives in Swallow Falls, an island in the Atlantic Ocean.  Swallow Falls has seen better days: Its citizens currently live off sardines. In an effort to solve this crisis, Flint invents the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator. The FLDSMDFR transforms water into food — potentially any food. Although the FLDSMDFR briefly solves the island's problems, it ultimately morphs into a destructive and sentient machine and develops "food storms" all around the world. Flint, weather intern-turned-field reporter Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), local celebrity Brent McHale (Andy Samberg), and cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt) are thus forced to destroy the food maker to save the planet.

Though Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a light-hearted romp for all ages, there are plenty of elements within it that go unnoticed by younger viewers. We're here to reveal those things only the grown-ups cotton on to in this extravagant tale of food, science, and hilarious disaster.

What happens when bullies grow up

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs takes a hard look at childhood bullying, in a way adults will recognize with a shudder. In their childhood, Brent calls Flint lame because Flint wants to be smart. Brent is one of the most recognizable people in town, as he was the infant mascot of Baby Brent Sardines. But this bullying doesn't stop on the playground — it follows the characters as they age. The tables do turn, however, once Flint becomes successful. As the town's newfound celebrity, he's welcomed into a trendy restaurant while Brent is stuck waiting in line. Brent is baffled that Flint gets red-carpet service, as he still considers Flint to be a "nerd."

While this film occasionally makes it look like being a geek is the worst thing a person can be, adults know that intelligent people tend to run the world. Well, perhaps it'd be more accurate to say that people who work hard and further their education tend to have greater opportunities in life. Adults will also recognize Brent's rise and fall as all too common: Popularity during K-12 education only gets people so far. While Brent does initially try to coast on his childhood success, he eventually redeems himself by playing a role in destroying the FLDSMDFR.

The pain of childhood insecurity

Sam Sparks is no stranger to being bullied. People make fun of her because she wears glasses and puts her hair in a ponytail –  in this animated universe, those are the traits of a nerd. Unfortunately, this is a problem Sam has struggled with since she was a child. Long ago, Sam decided not to wear her glasses, because of the way she's treated while wearing them. Of course, she can't see clearly without them, but that's a sacrifice she's willing to make to fit in.

After meeting Flint, she starts to feel more comfortable with being herself. Thus, she puts on her childhood glasses (that somehow still fit) and uses a scrunchie to hold her hair up, as it's her preferred style ... resulting in an anchor at the news station making fun of her. The anchor goes as low as saying that he hopes Sam looks more appealing when the cameras return to her story. Adults will recognize this as particularly cruel: Childhood insults and insecurities never quite lose their sting, even years after the fact.

Sam faces sexism in the workplace

Before she's sent to Swallow Falls to be a field reporter, Sam works at a news station as an intern. Higher-ups decide to send her to Swallow Falls because she's "cute and super perky," which are apparently the qualities they look for in a woman doing this job. It's not hard for a more seasoned viewer to notice how disturbing this message is. Sam's employers don't value her intelligence, talent, ambition, or skill set — they only promote her because of the way she looks. This event subtly opens the door to an examination of real-world injustices, most specifically the poor treatment of women in the workplace.

Things get so bad that Sam's superior, a male news anchor, tells her she doesn't look appealing on live TV. This is all because she wears spectacles and doesn't have her hair down. As too many adult women know, this sort of scrutiny is all too real.

Flint might be a genius -- but no one cares

Flint is viewed as a failure because he's still living with his dad as an adult and doesn't have a "real job." His inventions are, however, ludicrously brilliant. Yet no one seems to be aware of this, as they continue to shun him.

Seriously, though: Flint might be a genius. Consider Flint's creation of spray-on shoes. Yes, these shoes are also permanently stuck on his feet after he demonstrates to his classmates how the spray works. But with a little tweaking of this invention, everyone in the world could have affordable and durable shoes if they so desire. Flint also makes a thought translator for his pet monkey, so he can understand the monkey's thoughts and feelings. Granted, the monkey only says his name, but he's on the verge of creating a technology that would allow people to converse with all animals. The translator shows its fullest potential when it's attached to Flint's father, and he articulates how proud he is of his son. Think of all the hours of therapy this invention could save!

Although some of Flint's inventions are more bizarre than others (for example, rat birds), many could provide value to the entire world. Of course, as adults well know, quite a lot of people prefer stability to oddball risk-taking. The town's disdain of Flint's inventions seems ridiculous, but upon reflection, it's really just an honest portrayal of the world.

Flint's success proves that money doesn't buy happiness

As the age-old phrase goes, "money doesn't buy happiness." Now, money can alleviate many problems for people who are insolvent, as adults well know. But those older members of the audience are also aware that the adage still generally holds true, and that Flint's experience with success and fame prove it.

Even at the height of his triumph, Flint's dad and Sam don't fully support him. His dad wants him to take up a more honest and humble living by working at the family-owned fishing shop. Sam suspects the FLDSMDFR could cause more harm than good and might just lead to destruction. Sure, Flint is happy: For the first time in his life, he's being recognized for his trailblazing science. Yet his loved ones don't support his path — and they have a bit of a point. His machine really is dangerous, and fame really doesn't replace the happiness found in strong bonds with loved ones. Moreover, every aspect of life going smooth, all at the same time, just can't last. In time, Flint is forced to reckon with all the problems wild success hasn't fixed — a real-life notion adults are all too familiar with.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs has a ludicrously stacked cast

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs opens with the line, "A film by a lot of people." While this is supposed to be a joke (opening credits of movies do drag on), it obscures an important truth adults might suspect while watching the movie, then confirm with an IMDb search afterwards: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs features a seriously all-star cast. People of all ages can, of course, recognize certain voices in animated films, but some of the voices in this particular movie don't tend to star in PG-rated fare.

First up is popular comedian Bill Hader as Flint. Anna Faris, known to many grown-ups for her roles in the Scary Movie films, plays Sam. And then there's Neil Patrick Harris, who plays a monkey named Steve who only says his own name. Let that one sink in: Beloved star of stage and screen Neil Patrick Harris was hired to play a monkey who says literally one thing. Other notable cast members include James Caan as Tim, Bruce Campbell as Mayor Shelbourne, and Andy Samberg as Brent. Perhaps the most surprising cast member is the one and only Mr. T, who voices Officer Earl Devereaux.

Flint's machine solves world hunger

The moment food starts falling from the sky via Flint's machine is the moment the town no longer has to subsist on sardines. It's also the moment when Mayor Shelbourne gets a full dose of greediness. He swiftly renames Swallow Falls as Chewandswallow, morphing the town into a food tourism destination. Of course, a machine that creates food from scratch has greater abilities than attracting tourists: Limitless food could solve world hunger. You might protest that not everyone eats meat, which the machine produces a lot of, and that it's used to whip up mostly unhealthy food. But remember, there's no limit on this invention: All Flint has to do is type in the foods people desire, and they appear.

Now, kinks need to be worked out so the machine doesn't create food storms across the globe. But adults can only gape in awe at the scope of Flint's invention: It could solve world hunger, one of the greatest problems in history. In all honesty, it should be considered the greatest machine ever made by man. Yet it's used for attracting tourists, because Mayor Shelbourne is only interested in how the machine can benefit Mayor Shelbourne. Of course, that too is recognizable to adults as an all-too-real effect of world-changing science.

Food falling from the sky is kind of disgusting

Yes, this is an animated film in which food falling from the sky isn't supposed to be taken at face value. We get it. But it's hard not to think about how nasty eating something that splattered onto the ground would be — not to mention how potentially dangerous it is.

Although one of the tourists at the grand opening of Chewandswallow remarking on the food's sanitation is treated as a joke, food falling from the sky really is unsanitary. Especially when people play in the food and pick it up off the ground before they eat it. The food would collect germs, dirt, and other elements — the five second rule really doesn't apply here. Not to mention, large amounts of food dropping from the sky could seriously injure people. Even food landing on a windshield could be menacing, as it would make it hard for a driver to see out the window. The food could also attract wildlife into the city, which would be troublesome for everyone involved. All in all, food-as-weather might be a curse as much as a blessing.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs isn't interested in healthy food choices

Mayor Shelbourne wants to be bigger, and he gets his wish when he starts consuming food at an alarming rate. His sudden weight gain would more than likely be accompanied by serious health issues — but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is not exactly interested in teaching kids about healthy eating.

Adults shudder as they watch characters eat ice cream, cheeseburgers, gummy bears, and, of course, spaghetti and meatballs every single day. Earl's son, Calvin "Cal" Devereaux (Bobb'e J. Thompson) eats so much food that he passes out and needs medical attention. This is shrugged off as a joke, as he's said to be in a food coma. The cracking of a vegetable wakes him up, acting as smelling salts. 

Now, the issue isn't necessarily that unhealthy food is prominent in this movie — everyone deserves some ice cream now and then. But the problems created by eating an imbalanced diet for prolonged periods of time are pushed aside here. Adults, naturally, are well aware of the ramifications and health risks involved — plus, they hopefully know that vegetables can be delicious, if prepared the right way! Bottom line: This is not a movie that will teach your child how to make responsible food choices.

Chewandswallow represents humanity's environmental carelessness

Seasoned audience members can't help but notice how extraordinarily wasteful Chewandswallow is, nor how little the town's residents care about the environment. Sure, a machine that picks up the leftover food on the street is created — yet this machine flings the food out of sight, which doesn't actually solve the problem. As long as the residents don't see the food, though, they don't have to worry about it, which is enough for them in the short term. The food waste issue gets so bad, however, that Mount Leftovers, a human-made dam consisting of uneaten food, breaks. This causes a food avalanche to be unleashed upon the town.

All of this is meant to be light-hearted and humorous, but it's not hard for adults to notice that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs highlights humanity's wastefulness, as well as society's inability to care for the environment. All the food storms sprouting up across the world act as a direct message about climate change and environmental stewardship, which, of course, isn't typically the number-one concern in the mind of a child. Humans' careless misbehavior has catastrophic consequences, however. All of this is an entertaining spectacle to watch on screen, but grown-ups know its real-world roots go deep.

Flint follows his dreams, but learns it's not easy to do so

While a lot of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatball's deeper themes tackle weighty subjects like greed and climate change, not all of them are so negative. After all, this is a story about following your dreams. Flint doesn't give up on his scientific aspirations and finally succeeds after showing the world how innovative his food maker is. Sam continues to work in the media world until she covers a worldwide topic — and she does so while resolving to finally be herself. Although Flint's invention certainly has its issues, he continues to hone his craft until he succeeds.  Adults will recognize this as a truly honest take on ambition: It's not instantaneous, and it takes a lot of time and effort. Moreover, it often takes a whole bunch of teamwork, as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs amply demonstrates. Flint's goals are only achieved after he starts working together with others.

Ultimately, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a mouth-watering film that the whole family can enjoy. Its messages might land differently for kids and adults, but all viewers are united in appreciating its funny, thoughtful, beautifully animated story. Just remember not to eat strange food you find on the ground, kids.