This is Part 2 of The Netflix Project, where Netflix itself is in the driver’s seat of what to watch next.
Before we get into the movie, let’s take a second to speculate on why Netflix chose Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 as the next movie for me to watch. It’s a pretty logical step, considering the only movie I’ve watched so far on the profile was in Part 1 Despicable Me 2. They’re both 2013 sequels to recent, well-received animated movies. After the 4 stars I gave Despicable Me 2, I can’t think of a better recommendation. Good on you, Netflix. So how does Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 stack up?
There have been a smattering of movies about Steve Jobs over the last few years. First, there was iSteve, then Ashton Kutcher put on the sweater in Jobs. Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs recently hit theatres but Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 may prove to be the most poignant indictment of Steve Jobs yet.
In a flashback, our plucky protagonist Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) is watching TV as a young child. His eyes are glued to a science program, featuring his hero, charismatic inventor Chester V. What’s clear to the audience (although Flint is oblivious) is the artificial, manufactured way that Chester V is branded as the sole face of scientific progress. As the announcer introduces “The Scientifically Wonderful World of Science,” four different science magazines pan across the screen, each featuring Chester’s face. A fifth picture of Chester is on the back of yet another magazine, which is pulled away to reveal that exact same face. In the span of 8 seconds, the image of Chester-as-science-god has been promoted a half dozen times.
Once Flint is grown up and has become an enthusiastic and capable inventor in his own right, his idolatry of Chester V hasn’t waned. He, like the rest of the world, can’t help but be swept up in the pomp and overproduction of everything that Chester and his corporation, LiveCorp, bring into the world. Once Flint gets a job at LiveCorp, he enthusiastically becomes a cog in a machine of idea farming. Every ounce of his creativity and ingenuity is fed into the banks of the company’s intellectual property with the ultimate goal being that Chester himself will single out one of his ideas during a special, annual televised event.
Even if the film isn’t specifically attacking Steve Jobs (although Chester V is a balding, bespectacled man with a signature outfit) it’s at the very least deeply critical of the concept of the celebrity CEO. Hundreds and thousands of people pour incredible mounts of creative energy into the creation of modern magic like iPhones and electric cars but it’s these figureheads who receive the credit. Marketing certainly benefits from having a Jobs or a Musk up there on the stage, making a fearfully giant corporation seems like a folksy mom-and-pop shop but what CWaCoM2 wants to point out is how easily effective marketing can become megalomania. Chester V doesn’t believe in the power of the machine of geniuses that he has orchestrated. He believes his own hype and sees every person in his company as a replaceable tool who only exists to help him achieve his goals.
Chester’s self-aggrandization seems at first to be a silly quirk but the pressure of being the figurehead of an enormous corporation leads to isolation and a barbaric, cutthroat dedication to maintaining his position. He treats Flint as a disposable nuisance of little value, he is willfully disrespectful to his employees, and, upon discovering an island filled with dozens of species of food/animal hybrids, he cannot wait to process them into his next generation of food bars.
The solution that CWaCoM2 promote is respectful inclusion. Time and time again, Chester V tries to separate Flint from his friends but each time, Flint re-learns the lesson that there is no reason to turn away the help of good people, especially when it is offered willingly. By the end, Flint is back with his friends and he has formed a symbiotic co-habitation situation with the so-called “foodimals.” When everyone is participating, feeling acknowledged and valued, you end up with a community of people who are all working together. With everyone on the inside, working together, there isn’t any need for a Chester V or a Steve Jobs, because there isn’t anybody on the outside who needs selling to.
So what does this mean for the Netflix Project profile? According to Netflix, I can assign the movie one to five stars, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs gets a…
1 – Hated it
2 – Didn’t like it
3 – Liked it
4 – Really liked it
5 – Loved it
Let’s throw that rating in and see what kinds of recommendations pop out. My “Top Picks,” as assigned by Netflix, are…
5 – Kingsman: The Secret Service
4 – Paw Patrol
3 – Despicable Me
2 – Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection
and finally, the movie I’ll be tackling next time:
1 – Cinderella