Review

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie Review

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Oct 04, 2002 | 8:55am EDT

Jonah is a computer-animated tale based on the Biblical story of the Hebrew prophet who spends three days in the belly of a great fish and eventually learns the meaning of compassion. In the VeggieTales version however the characters are played by garden-variety vegetables including peas carrots cucumbers and tomatoes. The movie begins in the modern-day as a group of vegetables led by Bob the Tomato crash their van on their way to a concert. As they wait in a seafood restaurant for a tow truck (guess they'd better look out for the chef) bickering over who caused the accident they run into three pirates who tell them a classic tale that teaches a lesson about compassion: Jonah--played by Archibald Asparagus--must go to the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh (which is inhabited by bad guys who slap each other with fish for no apparent reason) to deliver a message from God demanding they repent their evil ways. Although the story within the story starts off grandiosely with angry seas and a long desert trek to Nineveh it gets wrapped up rather quickly with the modern characters immediately understanding the message about the need for compassion and second chances.

Phil Vischer voices several characters in the film including Jonah Archibald Asparagus Bob the Tomato and the three pirates. Perhaps that's why male characters dominate the film. I can't help but be offended by the fact that the only female character is Laura Carrot seen in the modern-day setting. She is a bratty and terribly greedy vegetable whose selfish actions cause the family minivan to careen off the road. Another slightly offensive character in the film is the only non-vegetable Khalil. An Arab stereotype of some sort he is a dark-complexioned half-worm half-caterpillar with a thick accent a sharp contrast to the stuck up bespectacled Jonah who sports an uptight British accent. The only thing on Khalil's mind throughout the film is to sell things ("You deliver the message from the Lord and I sell the plush toys"). His character however does play an instrumental role at the end of the film in explaining the concept of second chances to Jonah.

Jonah was produced by Big Idea Productions whose founder Phil Vischer wrote directed voiced and even had a hand in the film's original score. The VeggieTales series actually began as 30-minute videos and included the titles such as Dave and the Giant Pickle (for David and Goliath) and Where's God When I'm S-Scared? While the animation is expressive and rich in detail there is something bizarre about watching limbless vegetables hobbling around. When the characters need to do things that require hands like playing cards for example the cards just magically float in place in front of their faces. If you are going to go so far as to make vegetables talk why not give them arms and legs too? The movie comes in at 84 minutes which is probably just enough: it's a constant hard-sell on biblical values complete with musical numbers including an angelic vegetable gospel choir inside the belly of the whale.

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