Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Movie Review: Jonah - A Veggietales Movie

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Veggie fun and a good moral in this Biblical retelling
Cons: Animation could be better
The Bottom Line:
Bible story told
With humor and vegetables
Fun for everyone

Forgiveness, Mercy, Second Chances, and a Whale

It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since the computer animated vegetables of VeggieTales first made the leap from direct to home video to the big screen.  I caught Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie again recently, and it is still very fun.

While the focus of the movie is indeed the Biblical story of Jonah, there is a wrap around story as well.  My theory is they use it to incorporate more of the familiar characters in the story.  Anyway, the movie opens with Bob the Tomato (voiced by Phil Vischer) and Dad Asparagus (Dan Anderson), taking a group of kids to see Twippo, a huge kids’ singer.  Laura Carrot (Kristin Blegen) is rubbing in the fact that she has a special ticket she can use to meet him after the concert.  But when things go wrong, they wind up at an out of the way sea food restaurant run by the French Peas.

It’s there they run into the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.  When the trio of Larry the Cucumber (Mike Nawrocki), Pa Grape, and Mr. Lunt (both Phil Vischer) hear the bickering, they decide to tell them of the one time they actually did something.

And that’s how we are introduced to Jonah (Archibald Asparagus).  When God calls him to go preach repentance to the Ninevites, he can’t stand the thought.  Those heathens actually slap people with fishes!  So he tries to run away aboard the ship of the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.  But when a storm comes up, will his sin be discovered?

So, obviously, they’ve changed what the citizens of Nineveh did to upset God.  But how could they discuss the horrible sins that were committed in a video aimed at pre-schoolers?  It actually makes for some rather funny scenes, and I’m more than willing to forgive this change.

Especially since they get so much else right.  While still incorporating the trademark Veggie humor, they hit the rest of the notes right.  That includes the real ending of the book – where Jonah doesn’t really want God’s compassion and mercy to be extended to the citizens of Nineveh.

And the humor?  We’ll, they’ve got a pretty fun Jaws spoof at one point (that might frighten small kids for a few moments only) and this video also introduced Khalil, a caterpillar (well, that is only half true) that still makes very rare cameos in the VeggieTales library.

Most of the voices are done by two guys, and they do an amazing job.  You might guess if you didn’t know, but for the most part, these are distinct voices.  Plus, they let you get lost in the story, and that’s all that really matters.

Then there are the fun songs.  Okay, a couple of them are a bit cheesy, but the song that Anointed sings while Jonah is in the whale is so much fun.  And watch the credits because the two songs that play there are a blast as well.

So let’s talk about the weakness – the animation.  If you are expecting Pixar quality work, you’ll be disappointed.  The biggest weakness is the water, which never looks quite right to me.  While there are no beautiful money shots, the animation never gets in the way of the story but helps tell it expertly.

While they don’t have a Bible verse summary at the end, the moral of the story comes through loud and clear, especially in the song that they sing before the credit roll.  And it’s a good reminder no matter how old you are that we should pass on the second chances God has given us to those around us.

So no matter you age, you should watch Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.  You’ll find fun, adventure, and a lesson we all need to remember.

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