Movie Review

Jonah

A VeggieTales Movie

Reviewed by: Douglas M. Downs
STAFF WRITER

Excellent!
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family
Genre:
Animated Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 22 min.

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.

Khalil, a new character in “Jonah” 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.

Scene from “Jonah”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.

Scene from “Jonah”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!

Fun Stuff to Watch For
  • In the opening scene, make sure to check out the license plate of the veggies’ mini-van.
  • A bit of Midwestern pride—the road map Bob and Dad are reading in the mini-van has some Chicago landmarks in it (Lake Michigan and Routes 55, 59, 88, 90, 94, 355, etc.).
  • When Bob loses control of the mini-van and drives by a cabin, the car from “Esther” is parked next to the cabin, perched atop some concrete blocks.
  • If you listen closely in the dining room of the restaurant, you can hear a Muzak-like interpretation of the song “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.”
  • The ship hanging in the seafood restaurant is Lyle’s little boat from “Lyle the Kindly Viking.”
  • There is a net hanging in the restaurant with a bunch of toys and other items in it. Make sure you look for these items later, aboard the ship of the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything.
  • Can anyone spot the twitchy-eyed Miss Achmetha (from “Esther”) in the city of Joppa?
  • The book that Jonah is reading in his tent is actually the “Lyle the Kindly Viking” pop-up book.
  • What is Larryboy’s plunger doing on the side of the pirate ship?
  • The shot where Jonah is riding Reginald the camel through the desert is homage to a similar shot from the film “Lawrence of Arabia.”
  • King Twistomer is actually the gourd who sat on Larry’s high silk hat in the Silly Song by the same name (from the VeggieTales episode “Lyle the Kindly Viking”).
  • Look for Larry the Cucumber barking after an outboard boat motor. This occurs after the motor goes out of control on the pirate ship.
  • If you thought you spotted Art Bigotti’s bowling ball, you are right on the money! It can be seen when the Pirates are stuffing the ship’s cannon with supplies. The last item they grab is Art Bigotti’s signature bowling ball.
  • The city of Lombard, Illinois (home to Big Idea Productions) is included on Angus’ cruise sign. This occurs in the city of Joppa, when Jonah is trying to buy a ticket to sail as far away from Nineveh as he possibly can get.
  • The look of the angels in the belly of the whale, who sing the song “Second Chances,” was loosely based on the members of the group Anointed, who provide the angels with their “heavenly” voices.
  • Local color? During the musical number in the city of Joppa, there is a postman hopping around delivering letters. All of the letters have a return address of: Big Idea, Lombard, IL 60148
  • Stay for the end of the credits. You’ll be glad you did!

Year of Release—2002 (October 4th)

Viewer Comments
Positive—I’m a 35 year old Christian who has every Veggie-Tales video. Since this was a Veggie-flick straight from the Bible, the moral rating of Jonah, without question, was excellent. The rest of my message is going to sound negative, but I assure you, I love the Veggie Tales concept and mission. I feel movie quality ratings have been highly biased and over-rated on this board. Big Idea Productions really blew their “big screen” debut. Veggie Tales is about trend-setting production, and clean, yet off-the-wall, humor. Ever since they’ve become a major player in the commercial arena, the production and humor have turned towards predictable and mainstream, respectively… just like pop-culture. Trying to turn the story of Jonah into a 90 minute movie created lots of empty, mind-numbing, space that could have been filled with something fun and creative… remember the good ’ole “Silly Songs”? How could they leave that out of their first feature film for the masses? When you think back to your VT Video collection, what are the funniest things you remember? Silly Songs! “Oh Santa” is one of the most creative and hilarious things I’ve ever seen in my life. They could have shortened Jonah 10 minutes, added a great Silly Song, and really had a winner. Instead, I fell asleep at the theater, which reminded me of a very important line in the Veggie-Tale theme song… “Cauliflower, Sweet and Sour, HALF AN HOUR.”
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 2]
—Eric, age 35
Positive—This movie is superb. The filmmaking quality is the “creme de la creme.” Jonah shows a powerful message about God without any compromise. What more could Christians want in a movie? I feel that the more we spend our money on movies like this one, the more Hollywood recognizes that this is the type of entertainment we want to see. Christians of all ages need to pack the movie theatres in support of such Godly uncompromising films. I say “two thumbs up” for a job well done by Big Ideas Productions.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Karen Flores, age 37
Positive—I went to see this movie with a few other college students, and we all thought it was hysterical! It has a lot of very off-the-wall, very creative humor. And best yet, it stays true to the Biblical account, even when it changes certain details to make them more child-friendly (such as the game of go-fish to see who had done something to bring on the storm.) A definite must-see.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Cheryl, age 19
Positive—Jonah is a wonderful movie full of great production values, as well as Christian values. Songs, silliness, in-jokes, great lessons and a well-scripted movie make for one of the better films of late. Great kid and adult movie. It might be a bit long for the kids though. Two thumbs up (if I had hands.)
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Craig, age 32
Positive—Though intended for a young audience, Veggie Tales Jonah features the kind of sharp humor and exuberant songs that win over older hearts as well. The people at Big Ideas productions have used their small budget and limited cast to create first-rate, Disney-rivaling entertainment. Clearly, these are people who do their work as unto the Lord. In this adaptation, the familiar characters of Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and the other pirates “who don’t do anything” relate the principles found in Jonah to our lives today. Mercy, compassion, and obedience to God are a major focus, but the story never feels like a lecture and the comical tone is carried through to the end. I particularly love that Veggie Tales animation copies no one but itself. Both the look of the film and its clever/loopy mix of humor are utterly unique. And while I did say it’s Disney-rivaling entertainment, it in no way tries to copy their formulaic style of story telling. It’s wonderful to be able to recommend this film without reserve. If you’ve been looking for a movie to bring your children’s friends (and maybe even their parents) to, Jonah is it. Truly, my prayer is that others in the Christian film industry will be inspired by the creativity of the Veggie Tales team and realize, we don’t have to make bad copies of the world’s movies—we have a direct line to the greatest creative genius in the universe. If we look to him for inspiration, I have no doubt that our movies will be the most innovative, imaginative, and, yes, even entertaining thing going. In the meantime, let’s hope those pirates keep not doing their thing!
—Megan Basham
Positive—This movie was just excellent. Our children are one and not quite three and both watched the whole thing! The film taught about mercy and compassion, illustrating the lesson with a Bible story edited so that little ones can understand the story without having to understand the real transgressions of the Ninevites. (See Nahum 3:4) Big Idea did a wonderful job. Our grandmother even loved it. Our family supports Christian childrens’ films!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Rebecca Schneider, age 33
Positive—I just came from seeing Jonah and WOW!!! Being a college student I usually wait for movies to get to the dollar theatre or rent them on video, but I am SO glad that I saw this one in the theatre!! The whale scenes on the water were INCREDIBLE!!! I was also filled with joy that this movie with a STRONG biblical message was able to be shown on the big screen. Kudos to Big Idea!:)
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Laura Sommers, age 23
Positive—I enjoyed this movie mainly for its whit and humor that is present in most of the Veggietales other half-hour films. It teaches morality to children, and I think that adults can learn a thing or two from it also. I thought that the producers did a great job relating the truth the Bible intended the story of Jonah to. Overall, I would recommend it but don’t expect anything different than what is normal of the regular shows. (This movie was like an extended show).
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4]
—Josiah Burns, age 18
Positive—Every Christian needs to see this movie!!! We need to support the folks who use their time and talent to produce such wonderful, quality entertainment! This movie is excellent—in quality, content, imagination, humor, and animation. I laughed all the way through it. From the songs to the quips and dialogue, it was enthralling and held all of my attention. I was not expecting a full length feature to be able to hold my attention like this movie did. Big Idea. Go see—Enjoy—Laugh—Then be sure to tell your friends! Thoroughly enjoyable!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Marini Shull, age 44
Positive—I think this movie is what we all need right now in a time of turmoil and fighting. It really teaches a fun lesson about second changes and forgiving in a way that kids can understand and relate to and adults can enjoy in the humor of it too. I think that Big Idea did a wonderful job as they always do and I hope to see more movies like this in the future.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Holly, age 29
Positive—“IN THE BELLY OF THE WHALE.” Don/t mind me. I just seen this great movie and I still got those great songs in my head. Music from Newboys, Anointed and VeggieTale characters that will keep you singing. This movie is a lot of fun plus did a great job of teaching mercy, compassion and second chances. This movie does a great job of telling you the Bible story of Jonah. (EXCEPT FISH SLAPPING »> BUT OH WELL). Take your family to this for a great time.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—ROCKINRON, age 39
Positive—A friend and I went to see this on opening day and loved it! It is typical Veggie Tales humor and solid Biblical truth in a technically well done movie. I was very impressed that they didn’t shy away from the obviously Christian message and happy to see the theater full of little kids and their parents. What a great outing for families and a powerful witness to the world! I highly recommend this movie. Oh and stay till the end… it is well worth the giggle =)
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Bethany, age 23
Positive—Another great Big Idea production! And finally a family film at your local theater! Lots of fun stuff for the kids and adults! Great graphics! Great music! Only major complaint was the sound was only coming from the front speakers, so hard to hear at times. And it was a bit slow here and there. We are all praying that Jonah does well so that Hollywood can get a “real” message! Be sure to look at returns per theater as I think Jonah only opened in 900 screens.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Tim Emmerich, age 35
Positive—I’ve had the priviledge of previewing this movie. It is FANTASTIC!!! Same Veggie humor for both children and adults that we’ve all come to expect. With one difference… the quality of this film is at or beyond the Pixar films (i.e.-Toy Story, Monsters, etc). Although Big Idea has spoiled us for several years with high-quality direct to video titles, this movie takes their computer animation/music/writing skills to the next level. I would EASILY put it up against any movie in the marketplace. And the best part? It is STRONGLY Christian. They didn’t water down one thing. I felt like I was reading the book of Jonah. Hats off to the Big Idea folks. Their first entre onto the big screen is gonna be a winner.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Bill Reeves, age 33
Comments from young people
Positive—The Best movie of the year!! The Best veggie movie yet!!! You will love it!!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Andrew Denekas, age 14
Positive—I went to see this with the kids I babysit. One was five and one was three. I thought the musical numbers were very different from the videos’. I got kind of board with the movie. The five year old really liked it, but the three year old was a little too young for it. Overall, it is a cute movie, and I would definitely suggest you take your kids to see it.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4½]
—Kate, age 15
Positive—I really loved this movie. It was great. I liked the part when Jonah waited for God to collapse the city. I learned a lot about compassion and mercy.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Jamie, age 6