Transferring the popular children's book to the big screen, first-time writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller conjure up a veritable blizzard of ways of channeling chow, carrying it off with enough brio to send audiences into a food coma. Really, between the animated rainstorms of Flintstones-sized steaks and the creation of a translucent Jell-O palace, the movie's loopy use of food puts it in the hall of fame between "Big Night" and "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."
Lord and Miller come from a sitcom background ("How I Met Your Mother"), but there's little formula in the way they've chosen to beef up Judi and Ron Barrett's source material. Their off-center choices are typically inspired, whether it's casting Bill Hader, Anna Faris and (yes!) Mr. T in prime vocal roles or in the sly manner they parody disaster movies. After watching a spaghetti-and-meatball twister blow through town here, how can we be expected to watch Roland Emmerich's waterlogged "2012" with a straight face?
The film's story does have a ring of familiarity, with the misunderstood son wanting to impress his disapproving dad. (Another animation staple employed here: the dearly departed mom.) Tesla-worshiping, would-be inventor Flint (Hader) has endured a string of spectacular failures, but, living on a remote Atlantic island, his options are limited. His father (James Caan) runs a bait shop, even though the island's sardine-based economy long ago collapsed.
But the forecast turns brighter when Flint's latest invention, a contraption that turns water into a smorgasbord, rockets into the sky and . . . works. Overnight, the island becomes a cruise-ship destination (now people can gorge themselves off the vessel too) and Flint wins the attention of a sweet weather girl (Faris). Flint's father, who communicates entirely through fishing metaphors, doesn't come around, though. He looks at the sky and knows there's a storm a-brewin'.
The movie's humor targets both kids and grown-ups with equal success, but, even with the presence of a mustache-fixated monkey, the main attraction here is the movie's vibrant 3-D animation and its perfect storm of foodie-friendly sight gags.
Concession sales should be brisk.