jonah: a veggie tales movie (2002)


directors: mike nawrocki & phil vischer

voices of: phil vischer, mike nawrocki, tim hodge

Imagine a world where Ned Flanders and not Homer Simpson is the cartoon everyman and you'll be halfway prepared for Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, the first feature film from Big Idea, the Christian children's cartoon studio.

If you're already turned off by the idea, then read no further, but you'll be overlooking a little oasis of decent children's animation in a sea of crass, overbearing merchandise-crossover dreck. Jonah is, all too obviously, the biblical story of the Hebrew prophet who flees from God and ends up in the belly of a whale. The gag with Veggie Tales is that Jonah is an anthropomorphized asparagus stalk, living in a world of walking, talking tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and other sentient, computer animated garden produce.

Jonah breaks with the Lord when his pride prevents him from bringing His message to the sinful citizens of Nineveh, whose primary vice, spoken in dark whispers, is the tantalizingly euphemistic act of "fish-slapping." Whatever you might have imagined, when Jonah escapes the whale's belly and arrives in Nineveh, he discovers the citizenry engaged in precisely that - braining each other with seafood. Keep in mind that what sounds surreal to an adult can be accepted with gleeful amusement to a child, whose sense of the surreal tends to be accomodated without self-consciousness.

There are jokes in Jonah that parents will be surprised to get, especially if they were expecting an earnest piece of evangelizing, and it's hard to argue with a children's film that strives to teach about mercy and compassion instead of building on a product line available at an adjacent mall toy store