At our house, we love vegetables. OK, I still have trouble getting the boys to eat the real ones, but they’ll watch the animated ones. Even as they get older, they will stop and watch a VeggieTales show.
These animated singing and dancing vegetables that tell Bible tales have been around since 1993. Until recently, they came from the home grown and locally-based Big Idea Productions. The company, now a subsidiary of Classic Media LLC, is headquartered in Tennessee.
At the time VeggieTales first came out, I was writing a column on children’s videos. I grudgingly popped in the tape expecting to be bored by a preachy, poorly-made, dull show. But I was wrong—it was funny, creative, whimsical and within minutes, the whole household was in front of the television watching, “Where’s God When I Am S-Scared.”
Fast forward 24 more video episodes and one theatrical release, and you have the latest VeggieTales production, “Duke and the Great Pie War,” which will be in stores March 8 ($12.98 video, $14.98 DVD).
This is a familiar format that works well for the creators: two stars (Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato) and two different 15-minute stories separated with the familiar and always funny “Silly Songs with Larry.”
(In this case, Larry is trying very hard to do justice to the blues. But despite help from Blind Lemon Lincoln, Larry is too happy a fellow to sing the blues and ends up yodeling instead.)
All the pieces are there and like any good VeggieTales, there are strong positive messages. There are also moments where it really works.
I liked the sweet Princess Petunia, a rhubarbarian who gives up her homeland and royal status to protect her mother-in-law. And no matter what the French Peas do, they are slightly wicked, sarcastic and, of course, funny.
Still, I was upset by the first story, “Babysitter in De-Nile.” This is a clever title for the tale of Miriam and Moses, but the story takes an unexpected turn. When Pharaoh’s daughter picks up Moses from the river, Miriam offers to babysit her younger brother. So, Miriam’s family gets to keep Moses.
As the story ended, my jaw just hung open. I’m not a Biblical scholar, but even I know that Moses floated off in the basket into the house of Pharaoh, not back home.
I have always loved the twists VeggieTales takes in storytelling, such as the French Peas yelling snarky insults from the walls of Jericho. But despite the creative license with the program’s storytelling, normally the Bible stories are accurately told.
I went away from this episode feeling a bit cheated. Not what you hope to feel from a video put out by a company that decries the “irresponsible use of popular media.” After all these years, I have come to count on VeggieTales for good stories, good quality and their own funky, humorous brand of honesty. I have to say, in this case, I was really disappointed. Susy Schultz
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