Reviewed by: Douglas M. Downs
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Starring: voices of Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Kristin Blegen, Lisa Vischer, Kristin Blegan | Directed by: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer | Produced by: Ameake Owens | Written by: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer | Distributor: FHE Pictures
Alright… I confess! I love the creative genius that comes jammed packed into every VeggieTales episode. Prior to the 1993 release of “Where’s God When I’m S-Scared?,” I have been an admirer of computer animation. I enjoyed the sample videos that you could buy at Radio Shack. Each video would demonstrate the groundbreaking progress being made. I even purchased my first Veggie episode for that very reason.
From the opening catchy theme song to the end of the videos, I was hooked. Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki had captured the perfect blend of Monty Python satire, Mad Magazine and Weird Al silly songs and Nick Park’s humor in one outstanding package. There was something simply contagious about Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. Did you know that this first episode was the first full-length, 3-D computer animated children’s video produced in North America? This should come as no surprise to students of Church History. Christians for years were often at the forefront in promoting creative excellence through the arts.
Did you also know that VeggieTales now has the distinction of being the most successful direct-to-video product in the past decade? I always thought it would be wonderful if our VeggieFriends would one day find themselves on the Big Screen…
Behold! JONAH—A VeggieTales Movie.
Watching the previous episodes is not a requirement to seeing “Jonah” on the big screen, but if you do, you’ll appreciate the humor and lessons even more (see below for some fun things to watch for in “Jonah”). Big Idea once again blends the familiar and popular characters into the staring roles of this classic Old Testament truth. It’s a little like watching your own children acting out a Bible Story.
The character development is superb because Phil and Mike maintain a tremendous amount of personality integrity. It’s like PBS taking the familiarity of Sesame Street Characters and retelling a well-known tale (which they sometimes do). This multi-layered story includes plenty of inside VeggieJokes, adding up to an absolute scream of a film. “Jonah” maintains a timelessness that compels you to watch it again and again. The quality is every bit as good as anything that you would expect even from the big boys like Disney or DreamWorks, yet the moral lessons make it even a step above.
Our film opens as a story within a story: Bob the Tomato and “Dad” Asparagus are taking a group of veggie kids to see their favorite singer “Twippo”. The adventure opens with non-stop peril and hilarity as our group avoids several mishaps but eventually finds themselves stranded. They try to find hope within a run down seafood joint. It is here that they meet up with “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.” These pirates step in and try to resolve a conflict between Junior and Laura. What follows is a well-told modernization of the lessons that the prophet Jonah (played by Archibald Asparagus) learns on his way to (or should I say away from) Nineveh. Prophets, messages from God, compassion, mercy and second chances are simply and creatively explained. It truly is (yes, pun intended) a whale of a good time!
I hope much success for the team at Big Idea. I know that this VeggieFan would enjoy seeing Larry Boy on the big screen. I can see it now… “Larry Boy and the Pitiful PrideMonster from Planet-X.” One final note—stay to the end of the credits for the final Silly Song and let’s give this film a boost by seeing it more than once!