Cloudy with a chance of symbolism

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It’s such a silly title that i couldn’t resist having some fun with it.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is the best children’s film I’ve seen in a very long time, one of those films full of lines & overtones that a child won’t get, at least not until they’re much older.  In other words it’s a full-length animated feature that’s probably more entertaining for adults than children.

I suppose I shouldn’t expect any adults who aren’t parents or grand-parents to bother with the film, but what I’m saying here is for adults, not children.  If you have a chance to watch this film on TV see it. You won’t regret it.

Note, I am speaking of the first film, not the sequel (Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs II) that appeared in theatres last week.  I knew that certain people in my life would be seeing that sequel, and so I went about getting my hands on the first film.

We bought it.  And we watched it: twice (so far) and counting.

Who would expect a mainstream animated film to promote sustainability, in effect mocking our patterns of consumption and our aspirations as a society..?   I understand there’s a book that came long before any film.  I’d have to see it to decide whether the allegorical implications I’ve seen in the film are also present in the book.

Flint Lockwood is the protagonist, an inventor whose inventions keep misfiring.

As a child we see him come to school, announcing his solution to the greatest problem children face: untied shoelaces.

Instead? Spray on shoes.  Brilliant except: you can’t take them off!  He’s immediately ridiculed in class, as he discovers his spray-on-shoes are permanently attached to his feet (…even when he’s all grown up!).

He creates something called ratbirds.  Are they supposed to be good for something? They are certainly scary.

His latest?  a machine that makes food out of water goes haywire on national TV, destroying the town square before it flies off into the clouds.  In the conversation between disgraced weather reporter Sam Sparks (she’s female by the way) and Flint (our despairing inventor) food begins to fall from the sky.  The machine –which was fed on land by water—is much more effective when fed by the moisture of clouds.

Suddenly they are both heroes, as the town becomes a tourist mecca for its meteorological version of manna from heaven. And a romance might blossom between the two.

The mayor wants to exploit this of course. But isn’t that what mayors always do? I saw Jaws..!

Pardon me if I want to hold up a mirror.  This is your life, Western World. We’re spoiled rotten, as though our riches were falling on us from the clouds, and we don’t appreciate it.  Appreciate it? we are greedy for the next widget or flavour.  The citizens of this animated cartoon world have so much that they simply heave the extra food that they can’t eat into a reservoir.

Nobody seems to notice any problem with this.

When things spiral out of control, when the food weather becomes dangerous, I love the catastrophe that follows. Masses of surplus food piling up in that reservoir reach the breaking point.  As the dam bursts, the food simply floods the town in an avalanche of excess food, burying them in giant hamburgers and hot dogs. It’s a cute version of our society.

Talk about karma.

Sustainability isn’t merely a matter of waste management.  Isn’t it curious that the story is all about weather & climate?  I suspect I am reading an additional layer into the story, something never intended by Judi & Ron Barrett, the authors of that original book.  But what could be more apt in our era of global warming than a story where a silly weather disaster is brought on by human hands, an inventor whose inventions keep having unforeseen consequences.  That’s global warming in a parable for children: that our technologies have backfired upon us.

The ratbirds deserve a film of their own (perhaps Meatballs III, if there is one), a scary hybrid of parrot and rat.  No we don’t hear about DNA or scientists who play God, or Frankenstein’s monster; but if you wanted a watered down cartoon version of such things?  The ratbird covers it perfectly.

Even so, the film is full of positive images, and not just a study in sustainability:

  • Flint is a nerd.  The film is very nerd-friendly, suggesting that it’s okay to be a scientist, that knowledge is powerful and that stupidity is dangerous.
  • Sam –a weather-person and the eventual cartoon version of a love-interest—is presented when we first meet her as aspiring to a kind of plastic fame on network TV, dumbing herself down in the process.  Gradually she becomes herself, divesting herself of the artificial layer, wearing glasses instead of contacts, and allowing her true nerdy self to emerge.

I am now eager (hungry?) to see Meatballs II.  But I’m planning to see the first Meatballs again, even though i already saw it twice.  That’s not recycling, it’s simply fun.

This entry was posted in Cinema, video & DVDs, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cloudy with a chance of symbolism

  1. Pingback: Symbolic Meatballs II | barczablog

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