The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Is 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' Hollywood's latest left-wing screed?

September 18, 2009 |  5:03 pm


There are times -- actually, many times lately in this era of Dr. No Republicanism  -- when I strongly suspect that conservatives are living on a different planet from the rest of us. Sony has just released a new animated family movie called "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" that, to most sane observers, is a harmless comedy about a tiny island and the food that falls on it from the sky. The Miami Herald's Rene Rodriguez, who I read regularly because he has a reliably mainstream, non-insider perspective on movies, describes the film as "an uncommonly fleet and whimsical cartoon" that is the "rare kind of kiddie flick guaranteed to disarm anyone."

The only messages Rodriguez managed to discern in the movie were an aversion to gluttony and an invitation to be true to yourself, hardly the kind of secret lefty propaganda that would scare a parent. But the New York Post's Kyle Smith apparently saw an entirely different movie, a preachy, practically socialistic take on environmental issues that moved him to describe the latter part of the film as " 'The Day After Tomorrow' plus marinara sauce."

According to Smith, who is actually a critic who writes with verve and precision -- when he's not obsessed with uncovering hidden instances of maniacal Hollywood do-gooderism -- the movie's storyline is actually about liberal guilt about over-consumption. Unfortunately, he seems so enraged by the film's squishy storyline that it sounds like he's responding to a Thomas Friedman column instead of a lighthearted animated film. As he puts it in his review: 

"The town problem isn't complacency or greed -- it's just growth. When steaks the size of Priuses rain down, the father's point is proved. The population is being buried by its own prosperity, and the solution is not to manage the resources but to cut them off. Why not export the surplus and get rich? Because then there'd be no message about our collective guilt....The movie is a high-tech celebration of Luddism, not because the filmmaking digerati are actually nostalgic for low tech themselves, but because they think it, like poverty and ugliness, suits the sweaty throngs out beyond the 310 area code who are messing up the planet." 

This is a familiar conservative litany, that showbiz liberals are always looking down their noses at the riffraff in Middle America or secretly pushing their politics into mainstream movies. But judging from everyone else who's seen the "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," it's a harmless example of family filmmaking. I hate to quote Marx to conservatives, but maybe they will understand the Groucho version of this maxim: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.