Jonah:A Veggietales Movie - Movie Review
by Michael Elliott

Artistic Rating: 4.0 Stars
Comments: A Bible story retold for a child's perspective using wit, humor and excellent animation techniques.
Directed By: Mike Nawrocki and Phil Vischer
Starring: Mike Nawrocki, Phil Vischer, Tim Hodge, Lisa Vischer and Kristen Blegen
Written By: Mike Nawrocki, and Phil Vischer
Rated: G
Running Time: 1 hr : 30 min
Scripture References: 1 John 1:9, Jonah 1:1-4:11, 1 Timothy 1:12-15

If Jesus himself could use a mustard seed to teach his followers about the kingdom of God, why couldn't a tomato and a cucumber be used for the same purpose? That's one of the big ideas of Big Idea Productions, the makers of VeggieTales. They are now launching their first feature film, Jonah, starring their familiar cast of family friendly fruits and vegetables.

The movie begins with a rather precarious bus ride with a number of our veggie friends who are heading to a concert to hear their favorite performer. They run into some porcupine and underwear trouble along the way. It is trouble, which causes some feuding between them. Afterwards, they find themselves at a strange and mysterious seafood restaurant where they meet an unusual band of pirates simply known as "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything."

That is a bit of a misnomer for they do one thing that is especially good. Observing that there is discord in this traveling band of vegetables, the pirates tell a story of mercy and compassion. The story happens to be about Jonah, a prophet of God, who learns what it means to receive (and give) second chances.

The story will be a familiar one to anyone who may have attended a Sunday School class or two. The Old Testament record can be found in the book of Jonah (located between Obidiah and Micah). Briefly, God tells his prophet Jonah (played by Archibald Asparagus) to go to the city of Nineveh and reprove the people there for their wickedness so that they might repent their evil ways (represented in this film by their odd tendency to slap people with fish).

Jonah doesn't want to go and willfully disobeys this commandment of God. What happens next is a lesson meant for all of us to learn.

The successful VeggieTales video series makes a big splash onto the big screen. The CGI-animation is excellent. The quality of the art combined with the humor and intelligence of the script allow the filmmakers to present the biblical message of forgiveness without it ever becoming preachy or syrupy. It is a highly enjoyable and, for the most part, accurate presentation of a well-known biblical account. I say "for the most part accurate" because I don't recall the Bible saying that Jonah was cast into the sea with a rubber ducky inner tube around his waist.

Most of our favorite VeggieTales characters are on hand. Bob the Tomato drives the bus and Larry the Cucumber, Pa Grape and Mr. Lunt serve as the pirate band. We are also introduced to a few new characters. Khalil is an opportunistic caterpillar whose father was a worm (but he's OK with that). He decides to team up with Jonah ("You deliver the message from the Lord, and I sell the plush toys.") He later plays an integral part in trying to teach Jonah the moral of the story.

The filmmakers do not shy away from the biblical roots of the story nor do they treat them irreverently. Not many mainstream films would build big musical numbers around songs titled "A Message From The Lord," "A God of Second Chances," and "Jonah is a Prophet." It will be interesting to see how well the film does at the box office. One of the biggest complaints that Christian filmmakers have related to me is one of finding distribution for their films. They are given the argument that there isn't enough of an audience for such fare to warrant a widespread national release. Hopefully, Jonah will be the exception that changes the rule.

Certainly the message is sound. Our God is indeed a "god of second chances." His willingness to forgive and extend both grace and mercy to us is recorded throughout the scriptures.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 (KJV)

The lesson to us is also clear. If God is willing to forgive us, then we should be willing to forgive each other. When genuine remorse for wrongful actions is expressed, we should in turn adopt a loving and forgiving attitude so that we might live peaceably in the present and let the past stay in the past.

-Michael Elliott-c/o Movie Parables

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