Jonah: A Veggietales Movie

on October 04, 2002 by Bridget Byrne
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This is a message movie. It's a listen-to-me-because-what-I-tell-you-is-good-for-you-tale, like something a mom might relate to get her kids to eat their greens. But here, of course, the greens are not for eating. They are the stars. Asparagus spears, a ripe plump tomato, a whole pod of peas, a bunch of assorted legumes--backed up by several schools of fish, a snooty camel, a pesky caterpillar and that Jonah-gulping whale--these are the characters created by imagination and computer generated artistry to tell, as quirkily as possible, this Biblical parable about the power of, and need for, "compassion" and "mercy" in a troubled world

After the series' long-standing success in the direct-to-video format, this latest VeggieTale is the first to hit the bigscreen. It sticks to its roots. It's unabashedly faith-based as well as confidently and cheerfully silly. Devised brightly, boldly and simply, it tells a tale within a tale. Kids being driven to a pop concert have the wheels of their bus shafted by porcupines. They take refuge in a fish restaurant occupied by very lazy pirates who "don't do anything." But the pirates--one of whom appears to be the popular VeggieTale star Larry the Cucumber in disguise--did do something fairly important once, as they reveal in a shaggy dog story about how they sailed the Mediterranean with Jonah the prophet, when he was ducking God's order to go preach his message to the dastardly fish-slapping sinners of Nineveh. Their whale of a tale continues with the adventures of Jonah being consumed by the giant sea mammal, regurgitated and then doing his duty to tell the evildoers to mend their ways for the good of all mankind (or, in this case, all vegetablekind).

Various songs, underscored with humor--both sophisticated and downright daft--accompany the storytelling. The characters' voices, most of which are supplied by the filmmakers, Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, recognize no ethnic boundaries--the camel, for instance, sounds like a British staff officer, and several of the peas speak in French mange-tout accents.

It's a format that probably works best for an audience that is faith-based or very young, but for others it's simply a pleasant opportunity for an occasional giggle at the folly of mankind and the underrated value of veggies. Voiced, directed and written by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki. Produced by Ameake Owens. An Artisan release. Animated. Rated G. Running time: 83 min

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