"A Whale of a Tale"
What You Need To Know:
(CCC, BBB, V, M) Very strong Christian worldview with many very strong moral, spiritual, biblical lessons; no foul language; slapstick violence, such as characters hit each other with fish, car careens down hillside toward lake, car hits dock, and several other moments; no sex; no nudity; and, they drink root beer.
VEGGIETALES is a phenomenon, and its producer Big Idea Productions is an idea whose time has come and keeps coming. Started by two Bible school students in their spare bedroom, Big Idea has grown VEGGIETALES to be the Number One selling videotape series in the nation, quite often at major retail stores like Wal-Mart. Now, the veggies are coming to the big screen with JONAH, and they aren’t embarrassed to tell you it’s a whale of a tale. In fact, they aren’t embarrassed to be silly, fun, delightful, and entertaining. Moreover, JONAH is well-plotted to entertain young tykes and adults alike. In the beginning, Bob the Tomato and a van full of young vegetables are heading to a music concert. Two of the kids are arguing because one of them has a backstage pass and the other does not. In the midst of the singing and arguing, the van goes out of control and crashes into a dock next to a seafood restaurant. When they all go in to this funky seafood restaurant, the veggie kids are told a story by the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, to teach them mercy and compassion. The story is the biggest fish story of all time, the story of Jonah and the Whale from the Bible. Flash back to Jonah riding a camel into the town of Joppa. Jonah brings meesages from God, and everyone wants to hear the message from the Lord. That night, when he receives a message from God telling him to go tell the people of Ninevah to repent, he refuses to do so. After all, the people of Ninevah are the worst! Jonah disobeys God and runs off to sea with the Pirates Who Do Nothing. When a horrible storm comes, Jonah recognizes that the only way to save the ship is for him to jump overboard. As soon as he does, the storm stops. The whale, of course, swallows both him and a friend he met on board, a little caterpillar named Khalil, whom Jonah calls Carlisle. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repents and asks God for a second chance. The whale spits him and Khalil on the shore, and he and Khalil go off to proclaim God’s word to Ninevah. The story of Jonah is one of the most popular in the Bible according to the Big Idea creative team. The Big Idea team has taken this popular, time-honored story and made it even more exciting, fun and entertaining, a rare phenomenon indeed. All of the characters, including Jonah, have something to learn. The interesting thing about JONAH is that its humor and entertainment value come from very careful construction. Right at the beginning, the audience knows where JONAH is going, AND they know what Jonah’s supposed to learn: mercy and compassion. The jeopardy is clear and intense from the first moment. Selfishness, pride and sibling rivalry conspire against fulfilling the premise. Obstacles confront the heroes in the present day, as well as Jonah in the past, as they try to fulfill the premise. Clearly plotted turning points, wonderful songs and music, and terrific animation all build to tell the story. The only difficulty is the character of Jonah himself. His real denouement is at the whale, but his character has to follow through until he delivers the message to the people of Ninevah. Character arcs are less important in short videos and television programs, but movies need well-developed character arcs. Regrettably, Jonah’s arc is more of a sine wave. Furthermore, the opening introduces the audience to too many characters too quickly; it is not until the movie gets to Jonah that the story develops a clear focus. Phil Vischer at Big Idea understood all this, but this is of course one of the limitations of the biblical story. The Big Idea team wanted the movie to be true to the biblical story, even with its limitations and with all the silliness they add to make the story entertaining for children. Overall, children will learn a lot from this movie and have fun learning it. To produce this movie, the Big Idea team has hired some of the top people in Hollywood, people who were at the top of their game at DreamWorks, Disney and Warner Bros. All these people said they love working at Big Idea, where they could exercise their talent AND their faith. There is only one problem with this glowing review. The movie is not being released by a major studio. The majors tend to monopolize the box office. Independent films, no matter how good, seldom do well. For this movie to succeed, all of the friends of Big Idea and perhaps all the friends of the God who gives Jonah His messages, need to support this movie at the box office. If they do, they will help in a very significant way to transform and redeem the values of the mass media.