Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie Movie Review

The best gauge for the success of a kids' movie lies with its audience. Are moms and dads laughing and singing along with their children? How long and frequent are the bathroom breaks? Is mom looking at her watch, wondering if the previews count as part of the running time? Are kids laughing or are they quieter than at nap time? Do the adults appreciate the subtle jokes doled out to them?

Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie passes this test with flying colors, which I witnessed first hand on a recent weekday matinee. A mother sang along with the movie, while bouncing her son on her knee. The kids sitting behind me laughed like mad scientists. Meanwhile, the father in front of me lapped up the adult humor the movie offered.

It's easy to see why Jonah, the first full-length movie from the popular VeggieTales video series, is making a nice little run at the box office. Like Pixar's string of hits, Jonah offers non-patronizing entertainment for every age without being sugary and preachy. Those qualities are more amazing in Jonah's case, seeing how it details a Biblical tale. But then again, a director can't afford to be too high and mighty when the characters are animated vegetables.

As you might have guessed, the movie highlights Jonah (who is portrayed as an asparagus), the prophet who was stuck in the whale but who still managed to deliver God's word. The story gets told to a group of young vegetables stranded at a restaurant following a failed attempt to attend a rock concert. In a cute twist, the kids learn the tale's lessons of humility and compassion from the "Pirates Who Don't Do Anything," who relate how Jonah refused to deliver God's message to the Ninevites, which Jonah can't stand.

Instead, Jonah hops a boat with the aforementioned pirates steering and befriends (or rather endures) Khalil, an ingratiating, merchandise-selling caterpillar with an East Indian accent. Together Jonah and Khalil escape from the whale and into Nineveh, but not before Jonah learns a few hard lessons.

I don't remember Sunday school being like this. The movie is a blast of educational energy, as bouncy animation and catchy songs escort you through the entire 85 minutes. Jonah simply teaches a lesson without wallowing in divine justification or excluding those who don't agree with Christian doctrine. There's no uneasiness to the movie, no sense of church recruitment. Atheists can relax.

With its success, further full-length VeggieTales entries are a given. For that I'm happy because not only will kids get another thoughtful and fun movie to enjoy, but grown-ups will be able to laugh knowing there's an alternative to whatever Pokemon installment has just been unleashed. The only caveat is that kids may be even more reluctant to eat vegetables than ever before. After all, what five-year-old would want to eat Jonah in the name of good nutrition?

The Jonah DVD features two full discs of material. Disc one adds three commentaries (one including in-character voices from the film). Disc two adds a complete set Disney-style making-of featurettes, including behind the scenes footage, videos, auditions, extra scenes, and even the script to the film.

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The lima bean gets eaten first.


Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: G, 2002


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