November 18, 2013

Horse 1570 - Cloudy With A Chance Of Morality


At the weekend, the film "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" was on telly and although it's a film with a relatively simple plot, I think that there's quite a lot in it that could very form the part of a high school English class.
I'm going to pick out just three things which can be explored within this film because inadvertently, Sony Pictures have produced a deceptively useful object lesson.

Classic Tragedy
A tragedy in the classic sense and particularly exemplified by Shakespeare, is a work in which a character suffers a downfall and could have taken steps to avoid this from happening.
In "Cloudy" this most obviously happens with Mayor Shelbourne who deals with twin vices of gluttony and avarice in his quest for power and fame. Quite obviously this takes on the form of the grotesque as by the end of the film, he ends up hideously obese (and having to move about by mobility scooter) but right at the end of the film he ends up in the middle of the ocean, after having eaten his peanut butter and jelly sandwich escape boat; it is only at that point that he admits that his plans were ill thought out.

To some degree the film acts like a morality play in that the vice which is personified is that of gluttony but as I've mentioned, perhaps there is a case to be that avarice also plays a part as Mayor Shelbourne tries to manipulate the media to bring fame to himself on the world's stage.

Quest For Redemption
Inventor Flint Lockwood who invents the machine which makes it rain food from the sky, doesn't really demand fame though he does briefly flirt with it. One major theme in this film is Flint's quest for recognition and acceptance from his father, Tim.
Indeed with Flint is at his lowest point in the film and is literally in the garbage bin, it is his father Tim who lifts him out and sends him on the job that he was made to do.
A parallel could be drawn with God who lifts us up out of the pit and I'm sure that there's a good case to be made that it's kind of interesting to see that close to the end of the film when Tim does finally admit that he is proud of his son, he mentions that he was always proud of his son, even though he found it difficult to express it.

Chevok's Gun
Russian playwright Anton Chekov once asserted that:
"Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."
In Cloudy, Flint invents 'spray-on shoes' at an early age and we see this as a source of derision and mirth by the people whom he went to school with. The point of course in showing us the can of spray-on shoes at the beginning of them film is that that is the plot device by which the food raining machine is finally brought to its end. Spray-on shoes qualifies perfectly as a Chekov Gun.

Of course the film is replete with movie cliches such as the protagonist missing a parent, or the inevitable boy-meets-girl story, or amusing animal side kick, and visual homages to other films but seeing as this is a G rated film, you can't honestly expect a terribly complicated plot like Bleak House or Anna Karenina can you?
All of these themes can be explored by an HSC English class and to that end, it might make good practice before studying something like Hamlet or Troilus and Cressida. It'd certain be more fun than the tripe that our English teachers fed us.

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