Veggie Tales are silly enough for everybody.
The brainchild of a couple of guys looking for morality-laced family entertainment, the Veggies have become a surprise direct-to-video hit over the past few years. The concept is ridiculously simple: Bible tales, acted out by a bunch of animated talking vegetables.
Jonah is their first foray onto the big screen, and it's as childishly silly as it can be, complete with nonsense singalongs, simplified morality lessons and, well, talking vegetables.
In the framing story, a pair of veggie dads (Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber) are taking a VW busload of veggie kids to a big concert, but some dubious driving skills leave the gang stranded. Fortunately, they're near a seafood restaurant, where they go to call for help. While waiting, they're entertained by three Pirates Who Don't Do Anything (except eat snack foods), who tell them about this guy Jonah they recently ran across.
Thus audiences are told the tale of Jonah (played here by a sprig of asparagus with a British accent), the prophet who tried to avoid his God-appointed mission to Nineveh, and was swallowed by a whale for his trouble. (The animated whale is way cool.)
The humor of Jonah is relentlessly good-natured and childishly anarchic - a good thing, since the Veggies' core audience is under 6. The Pirates, for instance, are busted for pilfering corn curls. Jonah's predicament is explained in song, with lyrics that include, `You ran from God this morning/And you're whale chow tonight.' And the evil that's so prevalent in Ninevah that God himself is angered? They slap each other with fish - an inspired nod to Monty Python, whom Veggie creators Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer have cited as an influence.
Children will love this stuff, and adults will find just enough sly asides within the dialogue (references to stock portfolios, for instance, and even Elvis) to keep their interest piqued.
Although not exactly a problem with the film, the moral values Jonah keeps hammering home, mercy and compassion, might prove a little lofty for 5-year-olds still struggling with selflessness and obedience.
Still, the preachifying that goes on is done with a light touch that should avoid offending the non-devout (or non-Judeo-Christians, whose values are certainly at the core of this film). Even better, it should leave everybody laughing, too. Veggie Tales is one amusing salad.
Written and directed by Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer
Released by Artisan Entertainment
Time 79 minutes