Jul 30, 2014

Review: VeggieTales: Where's God When I'm S-Scared? (1993)

Christian family entertainment. In 1993 there was probably close to nothing that fit the bill for families looking to show their kids morally correct and biblically-based entertainment like VeggieTales. There was definitely a market for movies like this and there was probably zero competition too. Phil Vischer basically started VeggieTales with nothing and succeeded just by word of mouth because of demand before being able to get his direct-to-video episodes distributed to Walmart and other large chains.That's a pretty nice success story.

21 years later, here I am watching the very first VeggieTales entry. I've seen some other episodes and I believe all of the features. I will not mince words here: I hate VeggieTales. I understand that I am not the target market of VT in the least but don't the people who are deserve better? The tiny budget that Vischer is working with always shows, the use of the same voice actors trying to do different accents is exhausting and the the songs might've been written by toddlers. Even at 30 minutes, Where's God When I'm S-Scared? is tough to get through.

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Genre: animation, short, family
Directed by: Phil Vischer
Produced by: Phil Vischer
Written by: Phil Vischer
Music by: Kurt Heinecke
Running time: 30 minutes
Production company: Big Idea Productions
Distributed by: Everland Entertainment, Anderson Digital
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Lisa Vischer, G.Bock, Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Dan Anderson

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Synopsis


VeggieTales: Where's God When I'm S-Scared? is a two part film with a short singing segment intermission. In the first story, Junior Asparagus watches a scary TV show that makes him afraid to go to sleep. He gets a visit from Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber who are there to reassure him with messages about God. After the singing segment with Larry the Cucumber, we're introduced to King Darius who has just had a dream. Consulting with his wisemen, they are unable to give him an answer about what his dream means. Enter Daniel who knows what Darius' dreams are about and as a reward, Darius makes him second-in-command. Upset by this development, the wisemen cook up a scheme to get rid of Daniel and take their rightful place. 

Review


It goes without saying that this masterfully animated, vegetable-featuring, epic direct-to-video release is for children. Well really, it's for parents who have children and want them to watch Christian entertainment. So yes, there's lots of talk about God being there for you so you don't have to be scared, blah blah blah. That's great, but there are ways of presenting things the aren't like bashing your head against a brick wall repeatedly. Clearly the goal is to present things in a way that are easily understood by children but it makes watching VeggieTales such a chore for anyone over the age of 3 years-old. Jokes are usually pretty dumb or are nonsensical anachronisms. I'm not saying there's a need to throw in lazy references to popular culture that would go over kids' heads for the benefit of parents, but there are ways of making movies kid and adult friendly.

The animation? What's that? VeggieTales: Where's God When I'm S-Scared? looks like a collection of rock carving montages. OK, it's not that bad, but the animation work looks like it was done by first-timers and never really should've seen the light of day. In fact, that's exactly what happened. Phil Vischer got together with two art grad students and friends over weekends on a single computer to get the animation job done. I suppose some leeway can be permitted because it's a first work but the thing is, the animation of VeggieTales has improved so little over the years. The mouths have trouble synching with the dialogue and everything looks so choppy and rough. I know that this was made on such a small budget though and some props can be given for the fact that this is the first animated movie done on a computer ever made in the US. 

The songs? I've already partly succeeded in erasing the songs in VeggieTales: Where's God When I'm S-Scared? from my head but I can tell you that they are unbearably repetitive and impossibly dimwitted. They aren't sung well at all and it's just tiring hearing the same voices over and over again while trying to disguise their voices. It's not pleasant sitting through the songs but it can be said that a kid will be able to pick out the lyrics and probably enjoy singing along. I have a feeling that this is in response to animated movies from Disney for example that have great songs but they aren't necessarily easy to pick up by kids. Naturally I'm the kind of guy who has always been awful at picking up lyrics, but compare a Disney song to a VeggieTales song? Kids will pick up VT songs in a snap.

I began this review by stating that I hate VeggieTales and I still do. Every movie I watch is just more ammunition and I don't imagine that my opinion will change anytime soon. The thing is, I can't truly say that I hate VeggieTales. Not with a clear conscience anyway. I haven't seen every single one ever made and until I do, I can't truly claim to be a VT hater. I feel discouraged when I look at the long list of VeggieTales movies on Wikipedia, but I will do this! Here's the perfect Bible passage to help me in my quest: 
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:10
I feel better already.

Rating


4/10