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Why Everything is not awesome

As it’s been half term it’s been great to have more time to hang out with my children.  We are big into movies in our house so over the week we went to see the Lego Movie and rented Cloudy with  a chance of meatballs 2. ( I have been watching a lot of movies lately – see here for my spoiler free Gravity review)

Both films are brilliantly animated and feature some A-list voice over celebrities. Both films tick the box for family appeal with enough jokes for adults to enjoy and visuals that younger children will love.

At one level both films are simply great business propositions. A sequel and a shameless product based movie. We shouldn’t expect much but the talent on display with the brilliant visuals and some very witty dialogue make these films more than just about cash flow. For example The Lego Movie had some very funny moments thanks to a portrayal of Batman borrowed from the Super Hero Cafe youtube sensation.

Strangely both films are very anti business with the villains being corporate America and big business. The irony of a film that is one 90 minute long product placement being anti business is pretty thick.

For me both films were weak on plot amounting to little more than a series of sometimes very funny set-piece  gags:

Flint Lockwood- “There’s a leek in my boat”

Batman: Relax, everybody. I’m here.
Emmet: Batman? Awesome! Could you make one of these in orange?
Batman: I only work in black. And sometimes, very, very dark gray.

Because stories are foundational to shaping character and worldview the lack of a compelling narrative says something to me about the movie industry.  Cinema at its best us a storytelling media but what happens when the stories run out?

The bottom line for both films was another push for self esteem.

“You are the special – if you believe you are…”

As someone who works with children from vulnerable backgrounds I do understand that there is a need to help some children grasp a better self image. But I am not sure that need for more self esteem is the challenge facing every child in the world at the moment. Helping a child understand that they are not the centre of the universe is a gift. If a child believes they are the centre of the universe they are going to be pretty disappointed by life. One of the things parents get to do for children is to help them give themselves to something (or if you are a Christian someone) that is bigger than them.  As poles reveal children in the west to be some of the unhappiest in the world – perhaps it is time to revise the diet of self esteem promotion the movies are feeding our kids.

Perhaps I am asking too much of children’s films? But we have  been spoilt by films like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia which have presented a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the human psyche and have extolled the virtues of living for others, for a cause greater than personal fulfilment. Even the decision to unnecessarily prolong the Hobbit series we are seeing complexities of personhood that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and the Lego movie don’t come anywhere near. Its time we invested more effort into the scripts not just the effects.

 

3 thoughts on “Why Everything is not awesome”

  1. Had a similar discussion yesterday. Article on radio was talking about why young British people often struggle to find employment. If we grow up thinking we are centre of the universe it’s can then be hard to see how you fit into the world as opposed to how the world should fit with you!

  2. Wow, quite surprised by your comment (“weak on plot”) regarding Lego Movie (can’t speak to the other one). Surely the broad narrative of what that film is about (can’t say for spoilers) is one of the most creative and impactful pieces of meaningful storytelling in any kids movie? I thought it had heaps of interesting stuff to say about spirituality, fate, creativity, freedom in purpose, etc. Each to their own I guess!

  3. Agree with Martin. Strong plot, certainly corny in places but a clever twist. Wonderful riffs on the Matrix et al throughout. However, you are right that the self-belief message is shallow and unnoble; it reminded me of too many cosmetics adverts.

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