With the holiday season behind us and more freezing days ahead, many of us already are desperate for ammunition in the annual fight against the winter doldrums.
Enter, thankfully, " Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," the relentlessly delightful animated film that brings a much-needed burst of gleeful, spaghetti-storming whimsy this week to DVD ($29 single-disc edition, $35 two-disc edition) and Blu-ray ($40 for Blu-ray/DVD combo pack).
Released in theaters last year, a period that overflowed with wonderfully inventive animated fare from "Coraline" to "Up" to "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Cloudy" dazzles from a technical perspective — everything from the film's ice cream-swirl snowdrifts to the pasta-and-meatballs twister look almost Weather-Channel real — as well as from a good old-fashioned narrative one.
Based loosely on the 1978 children's book by Judi and Ron Barret, the story depicts the wondrous delights (and inevitable disaster) that come to the island of Swallow Falls when inventor Flint Lockwood creates a machine that lets it rain an array of taste sensations — pancakes! cheeseburgers! doughnuts, with sprinkles! —upon the ever-hungry populace. Of course, obesity, corporate exploitation and Armageddon-style chaos naturally ensue, making "Cloudy" a tale both culinary and cautionary, but one that never sinks to preachiness. The movie plays to its strengths, and those strengths, happily, often involve the sight of pizza slices falling from the sky.
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Fortunately, the two-disc DVD and the Blu-ray editions also make a point of celebrating all that food-flurrying fun. Both versions come with Flint's Food Fight Game, a diversion that's sort of a cross between Asteroids and Space Invaders, with pieces of pie and burgers subbing in for the encroaching aliens.
And exclusively on the Blu-ray, fans will find the totally unnecessary but nonetheless addictive "splat mode," a feature that allows viewers to hit a button and sling animated eggs, cupcakes, meatballs and pie all over the screen, then clear the mess with a virtual squeegee and start all over again.