When thick, soft cheeseburgers rain down from thick, pink clouds, you’re convinced that Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s cartoon could be, like, the coolest Lisa Frank binder ever. It’s also a pretty great movie that savors the coil of a cocktail shrimp and the majesty of a Jell-O mountain. Based on—or really, riffing off of—the 1978 kids classic, a favorite of this hungry, hungry critic, this 3D adventure expands the original by adding characters and plot. In Swallow Falls, an island hidden under the “A” in Atlantic, the sole industry is sardines. When the globe’s taste buds turn to McDonald’s, the tiny land is forced to literally eat their losses until a boyish inventor named Flint (Bill Hader) figures out how to catalyze water molecules into cuisine. But when his invention gets shot into the stratosphere, everything from bacon to sushi rains down on Swallow Falls, inspiring the rapacious mayor (Bruce Campell) to refashion the town into the cruise ship destination Chewandswallow.
Lord and Miller know how to play with their food. They have a hunger for the whimsical detail: kids do face-down snow angels in ice cream, a pool of decorative nacho cheese is the Bellagio fondue. Like Doritos Extreme, every molecule has been analyzed for maximum joke capacity. Adults will dig it as much as kids thanks to a script that avoids pandering in favor of championing brains—in a neat makeover flip, Flint’s crush, smart weather girl Sam Sparks (Anna Faris), becomes even cuter when she puts her hair up and wears glasses. Of course, we’re all waiting for Flint’s food machine to start wreaking havoc, and if you think the dam on the leftovers disposal dump won’t break, you don’t remember New Orleans ’05. Rounding out the cast are James Caan as Flint’s gruff dad, Andy Samburg as meathead town mascot Baby Brent, Mr. T as the local cop and Neil Patrick Harris as Flint’s pet monkey Steve whose one-word thoughts, like Up’s Doug the Dog, get translated through a collar. As he yelps “gummy bear!” and “hungry!” at this jaw-dropping banquet, you’ll be reminded that the line between monkey and man is as thin as a slice of Swiss.