Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie

2002, G, 83 min. Directed by Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki. Voices by Lisa Vischer, Kristin Blegen, Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 11, 2002

Bill Bennett and Joe Lieberman should be pleased to note that this animated retelling of the Old Testament story of Jonah and the whale is as virtuous as they come. Try as I might, I was unable to detect the evil hand of Satan at work anywhere in this fluffy, pre-adolescent, Sunday school sermon of a film, which features a Cuisinart's load of anthropomorphic vegetables who pal around and learn valuable moral and spiritual lessons from a group of dinner-theatre pirates while waiting on van repairs. I know what you're thinking: Didn't Antonioni already do this? To be fair, I'm neither of the vegan persuasion nor am I inclined toward attending any church that doesn't feature James Brown at halftime. With its dancing, singing broccoli, and familial asparagi, Veggie Tales is clearly not aimed at this reviewer's palate and while the messages that lurk in the background are as standard to the Koran as they are to the Bible, it's good to report that these stir-fries-to-be don't ram the evangelical preachery down your throat, thereby necessitating some form of spiritual Heimlich maneuver. The Christian message is there, along with chlorophyllic choirs of produce department angels, but it's hardly the strident screeching of cable-access pulpit-pounders or the earnest scheming of the Gorgon-esque Roxella Van Impe. But is it as entertaining? Not really, at least, not if you're more than eight years of age. Parents can safely assume that there is absolutely nothing to offend their brood's sensibilities in this tale of Jonah, a poor proselytizing asparagus who'd much rather hang out in hometown Joppa, delivering the good news to anyone who will listen, than follow God's ineffable master plan and head off to the archetypal sin city Nineveh to steer its citizenry from their wicked ways. (It's a city so mind-bogglingly evil that the inhabitants regularly smack each other with whole fish, a sure sign of creeping godlessness.) In a misguided effort to outrun the long arm of the God, Jonah sets sail with the aforementioned pirates and promptly encounters inclement weather patterns and a pre-Ahab cetacean that looks to be roughly the size of Guam. Also along for the ride is Jonah's sidekick Khalil, a half-caterpillar, half-worm traveling salesman who spits out cheap gags like a fly spits out corrosive digestive fluids. The CGI animation is smooth and clean in a way that recalls early Pixar shorts, and the many songs strewn throughout are inventively mediocre in a manner that's unlikely to alarm Randy Newman (the accurately titled "Credits Song" is a high point). Bottom line: Jonah is strictly for kids suffering from rescinded television privileges or adults seeking a nap in a cool, dark environment that reeks of stale popcorn.

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Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki

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