As a film critic who sees nearly 150 movies a year, I’m never surprised to see a liberal message (or two, or 12--let’s be honest) on the big screen.
But two decades of persistent effort to balance things out may finally be paying off, as three major new movies actually have strong conservative message lurking within them.
I'll start with the first film to hit theaters, “21 Jump Street.” The comedic reboot of the ‘80s cops-go-undercover-in-high-school series that launched Johnny Depp’s career features advertising catchphrases like “They’re Getting Too Old For This Shift” and “The Only Thing Getting Blown Tonight Is Their Cover.” The movie might not at first blush appear to be on the Right side of the fence, but "21 Jump Street's" choice of villains may surprise you. The bad kids in high school in 2012 are not jocks, nerds or Republicans, but (drum roll please) environmentalists.
When the hero team of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum roll up in a muscle car to the school where they’re going undercover as students, they are immediately scolded for polluting the environment rather than being praised for having a cool car. The main people taunting them are preppy-looking kids who say they’re all about being green. They proudly ride bikes to school.
But rather than being a serious attack on our heroes, the film’s tone is actually mocking the enviro kids for whining, and it is later revealed that their leader is also the school’s main dealer of an illegal drug that causes hallucinations, meltdowns and even death. While the drug is largely played for laughs as well in this thankfully un-PC comedy, at no point do the environmentalist kids get to redeem themselves or appear to be taken seriously.
In fact, one big laugh comes when the cops eavesdrop on the drug dealer singing a horribly clichéd series of environmental slogans to his fairly brain-dead and nodding friends.
While this might seem like a pleasant surprise, one should take into account the fact that Hill comes from the Judd Apatow stable of talent. Apatow has made bank and drawn raves for producing, writing or directing nearly every comedy released since 2005, when he broke through with “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and brought a sexually conservative message across to millions who might never want to hear one otherwise.
As another Apatow protégé, Seth Rogen, once put it while defending the pro-life comedy “Knocked Up,” “We make conservative movies for stoners.”
Second on the list is the ubiquitous “Hunger Games,” which features a dystopian North American society in which government troops force 24 teenagers to kill each other on national television until just one is left standing. While it’s unexplained exactly how things got so bad that the citizenry rebelled and were crushed under the heels of the government, one can safely surmise this is a post-Obama society.
Cheap wisecrack, you say? Wait 'til you hear what the film’s future-era president, played by Donald Sutherland, has to say about the real reasons his government allows the games.
The president says the games give the citizens a sense of “hope.” But it isn’t that the president is being altruistic. Rather, he notes that, if you give people in even the most dire of circumstances “hope,” you can control them completely and make them put up with anything.
Sound familiar? Perhaps the second movie will teach us all how the government can exploit the word “change.” Well, aside from how we know it’s already been exploited.
My third film to point out is next week’s “Mirror Mirror,” a film which kicks off with an attack on taxes that’s so direct it might as well be a Tea Party commercial.
In the film, Julia Roberts plays a queen in deliciously evil fashion. Not only is the queen wicked for keeping her stepdaughter Snow White locked away from the people throughout her entire childhood, but she is also endlessly raising taxes anytime she feels like wasting more money.
When the queen tries to raise taxes again at the film’s start, her citizens are shown wailing in the streets, while the actual collection of the new coinage strongly resembles a robbery. When the film’s dwarves – a band of rag-tag thieves barely surviving in the no-man’s-land of some woods – stop the queen’s collector and rob him, Snow White figures out the money came from the suffering people and demands the dwarves return it. They do so reluctantly, but are instantly labeled heroes by the impoverished citizens, and the dwarves quickly decide to keep doing right, in helping the people keep their hard-earned money from the greedy queen.
Several different lines reveal that higher taxes are unfair, are leaving the citizenry broke, and ruining their happiness. Well, if fairy tales are meant to teach the young good lessons for living, then by God, here’s hoping that this is one lesson that will actually stick with them throughout their lives.
Add in the release of the strongly pro-life film “October Baby” in about 400 theaters this weekend, and one can actually feel there’s some hope for the truth to come out in films after all. It’s up to us now to support these efforts, if we want Hollywood to keep conveying our points of view.