Review

The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie Review

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Jan 13, 2008 | 5:26am EST

Unlike Jonah that whale of a VeggieTales rendition of the Biblical story this computer-animated adventure on the high seas goes easy on the preaching. Indeed our produce protagonists spend more time uttering variations on famous lines from classic films and TV shows than they do quoting the Old Testament making this VeggieTales Movie a mostly secular experience. Then again Pirates Who Don't Do Anything feels more like a G-rated remake of Three Amigos than a Sunday school sermon straight out of The Good Book. Elliot Sedgewick and George (played respectively by VeggieTales staples Larry the Cucumber Mr. Lunt and Pa Grape) are cabin boys and aspiring actors at the Pieces of Ate Dinner Theater. Soon after being fired for wrecking the show’s set the three pals are whisked away to the 17th century by a “HelpSeeker ” a magical apparatus sent from the past to find brave souls willing to save a prince and princess from being turned into vegetable stew by their pirate uncle. Our heroes certainly don’t think they’re the right veggies for the job and it’s not just because they don’t have arms and legs. Nevertheless they make like Will Turner as they encounter rock monsters and mechanical sea serpents en route to rescue the royal siblings from the evil clutches of Robert the Terrible. But first they must survive the attack of the killer cheese curls… Who needs to spend a fortune on a big-name voice cast when series creators Phil Vischer and Nawrocki can put the words into the mouths of most of their walking talking and crooning vegetable characters? Between them Vischer and Nawrocki give voice to 14 heroes and villains and it’s to their credit that none sound the same. Then again after 15 years of turning out one VeggieTales morality play after another they should have this thing down pat. The goofy gourd Mr. Lunt (Nawrocki)—with his slight Hispanic accent thankfully never employed as a source of amusement—clearly steals the show with his antics. Too bad the jittery Larry the Cucumber and the aging-but-stout Pa Grape (both Visher) don’t stand out from the crowd the same way that the Simpsons do from their fellow Springfieldians. They certainly do not derive much in the way of personality from Visher’s rather blasé delivery. The emphasis seems to be on what they say rather than how they say it in the hope that VeggieTales’ young and loyal followers clearly understand the message that’s being disseminated. Either that or Visher’s grown tired of playing the same anthropomorphic archetypes for so many years. The only other veteran voice actor to distinguish himself from Visher and Nawrocki is Cam Clarke. But that’s only because he’s so tranquil as Robert that the pirate warlord comes across about as terrible as the ocean on a calm clear day. Unsurprisingly there’s a lot of yo-ho-ho’s but hardly a bottle of rum in sight as our reluctant vegetables of action set sail. But as squeaky clean as this sea tale is director Nawrocki and writer Vischer don’t feel the need to hammer home their lesson in true heroics. Not that these pirates have much do aside from making nice with some less-than-fearsome creatures or engaging in (food)fights with Robert the Terrible. Nawrocki and Vischer don’t show much in the way of imagination as they put the pirates’ mettle to the test but at least Nawrocki keeps things cruising along so the film never outstays its welcome. The animation isn’t going to dazzle you Pixar-style but that’s more of a function of its characters than anything. There’s not much you can do with a piece of asparagus is there? At least parents don’t have to sit through any embarrassing Shrek-like double entendres. That said  Nawrocki and Vischer try to entertain the grownups by throwing out as many pop-culture references as possible. The problem is they clearly have not seen a new film or TV show since the last Bush administration. So their riffs on Days of Our Lives  Edward Scissorhands and Scarface come across as old and desperate. They have better luck with their closing-credits silly song which is a fairly amusing reworking of The B-52’s’ “Rock Lobster.” Just when you thought you had gotten “Spider-Pig” out of your head along comes “Rock Monster.” Arrrgh!

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