There seems to be a trend lately of creating family films that relate to food. And what’s interesting is that those films aren’t anywhere near promoting the idea of kids gorging themselves with high sugar content. Those who grew up during the Baby Boom through Generation X era saw plenty of family films that gave the idea that eating sugary confections was the ultimate fantasy. Especially in the era of “Sesame Street” and the musical adaptation of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, it set into motion a new pop culture era of candy and cookie appreciation.
No longer do family films wave an enticing dessert in the faces of kids to get them to pay attention in a movie. The first “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” set a new pattern with a story of an invention that cured world hunger and provided healthy foods that went far beyond meatballs. When the sequel came out recently, we suddenly saw those pieces of food come to surreal life without being foods you’d see on a fast food menu. Other than hamburgers turned sharks, all the other more benign foodimals were fruits and vegetables.
Was that a subtle ploy to get kids to start eating healthier? With First Lady Michelle Obama now well into her campaign to get kids to eat healthier in this country, you also wonder if there’s been an influence from the White House on the entertainment industry. If there really is a covert process of getting healthier eating habits into the minds of kids, how far is it going and where else is it going to manifest?
When you see the preview for “Free Birds” as a family film prior to Thanksgiving this year, it seems to be placing something we haven’t seen yet in these films: Vegetarianism. Why else to explain a movie about turkeys going back in time to prevent them from being the main course during the first Thanksgiving?
While the above is a clever way to jump on the time travel train that’s running fast in movies now, is the backlash against eating meat going to be too obvious to those who do eat meat? For kids who plan to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, it might give them pause on wanting to chow down on a turkey wing when the big day arrives. After watching “Free Birds”, it’s going to be interesting to see how parents try to explain the message, even if showing turkeys living and breathing without explanation would have been enough.
Perhaps we’re seeing the beginning of family films trying to fix diet problems in our nation’s kids. It’s hard not to resist that when you still see alarming numbers in obesity rates. Regardless, we’d expect it to be as subtle as “Cloudy” was and just make alternatively healthier foods look more attractive rather than preach a message.
Keep in mind even “Sesame Street” finally got around to making healthier foods look good after years of various Muppets downing cookies as if they were aspirin.
After the sour taste of the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” remake with Johnny Depp eight years ago, perhaps the candy overdose in films came to an end. Maybe it won’t stay that way with a change of Presidential administrations and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 3” having it rain chocolate truffles.