’Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ lessons in fatherhood, food

Like millions of parents I spent part of my weekend taking one of my kids to see the new cartoon “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” After all, the idea of how a spaghetti tornado would come across in 3-D did pique my interest a little bit.

Overall the movie was pretty good and the animation was indeed first-rate. Whether you saw the movie or are mulling it over, consider two poignant themes many Christians can relate to.

The dominant theme in my view is fatherhood. Ne’er-do-well inventor Flint Lockwood is the stereotypical head-in-the-clouds dreaming scientist. For most of the movie his first and worst invention is spray-on shoes. From the time he invents them in elementary school until the end of the film Flint has them on constantly, the obvious downfall to the product.

Throughout the film Flint’s father Tim, played by veteran actor James Caan, can’t wrap his brain around Flint’s determination to invent in the face of repeated failures nor his vast scientific knowledge. Tim would rather see Flint join him in the family business – a bait shop – and always clumsily tries to explain himself to Flint through fishing metaphors.

There’s certainly stereotyping going on about fathers who don’t communicate well and sons whose ambitions are 180 degrees different than their dad’s dreams. While the movie didn’t address this, it did bring the mind the idea of God as a father and how that relationship for a boy or a man can provide comfort when a physical father is absent or distant.

It also reminded me of a story I wrote on Team Focus, a Christian mentoring program run by former University of Pittsburgh football coach and ESPN analyst Mike Gottfried. The aim of the program is to provide strong male Christian mentors to boys without fathers in their lives and fill in some of the otherwise pieces.

It’s clear in the film Tim loves Flint and vice versa. Bridging that communication gap is tricky for the two and it underscores the importance of how a relationship with God can help bridge many of the relational gaps in our own lives.

The second theme was food, and not just because it’s central to the plot. It occurred to me – while I was sharing buttered popcorn with my son, no less – how our national obsession with food is everywhere. I love a good steak as much as the next guy, but it’s obvious the multitude of choices and abundance of food we are fortunate to have in this country boggles the mind if you stop and think about it. It also made me pause about the reporting we’ve done on sparse food pantry shelves during the recession and the wide array of organizations which work to serve the hungry domestically and internationally.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being amused with pancakes landing on the Eiffel Tower or playing inside a gargantuan Jell-O mold as long as you’re cognizant of the fact of how many people would cherish a fraction of the food that is portrayed for entertainment on their plates in the real world.


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